Category Archives: Growth

Route 1 Sector Plan Update Meeting & More

Fun new meetings on our Events page, most immediately a July 8 gathering on the Rt. 1 Plan. Rethink College Park provide a nice bit of data-driven context for this plan by tallying all the residential units and commercial square footage in the development pipeline at the moment. A recent note from Chad Williams at M-NCPPC updated citizens on the Route 1 Sector Plan. In case you did not receive it…

“I just wanted to let you know that due to circumstances beyond our control we will be unable to make our target date of tomorrow afternoon for distribution of copies of the Preliminary Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and Proposed Sectional Map Amendment document.

However, I do want to reassure you that you will still have plenty of time to read and review this document prior to the Joint Public Hearing that is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 in the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro. The legally mandated timeframe for review of preliminary plans is 30 days, which would mean copies must be available no later than August 15. We will continue to make every effort to provide copies as early in July as feasible to provide extra time for your review and to prepare comments on the plan for the public hearing record.

In the meantime, the meeting that has been scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8 at the Gildenhorn Recital Hall in the Clarice Smith Center will still occur. The purpose of this meeting is to present an overview of the recommendations of the preliminary sector plan to provide some background as you begin your reading and review.

I will send another message to this group once copies are available for pick-up and online.”

Other notes from our inbox included these tidbits:

Green Infrastructure Plan Legislation In 2005, the County Council approved the first-ever Green Infrastructure Plan for the county. The legislation to implement the plan has recently been transmitted to the County Council for review. Details on the plan and legislation can be found at Environmental Projects.

Review of County Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations The Planning Department has recently hired a consultant to propose amendments to the county’s existing regulations to better implement the General Plan. More details on this new project can be found at Development Review.

Envision Prince George’s Lives And you thought all that visioning stuff might have died a quiet death. “The Prince George’s County Planning Department is pleased to announce the selection of AmericaSpeaks—a nationally recognized nonprofit organization specializing in public engagement on community and policy issues to support Envision Prince George’s! We are excited that the organization pioneered concepts in community engagement and has an exemplary record of doing so with both the strategic expertise and the energy that is needed to make this initiative a success and sustain our efforts.”

A new  newsletter includes the dates of community planning events and updates from the Department and information on upcoming Envision workshops and events…eventually they will think to put these on the event calendar.

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Filed under Growth, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input, Public Transit, Route 1 Corridor, Route 1 Sector Plan, Transportation

Activists’ Guide to Surviving the Planning Board

A cooperative group of communities and citizens constitute the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, Inc. and they work across community boundaries on quality of life and planning issues. They have recently updated and distributed their null Activists’ Guide. With upcoming meetings  and the slew of plans in the pipeline at Park and Planning, this may be helpful to some.

The Guide remains a work-in-progress. IHHAAC seeks to assure accuracy and completeness. If you see any material which is not correct or is misleading, please advise us so that the next revision can include such changes. Similarly, if there is information which you would like to see added to expand this Guide, please share that information with us. We have no pride of authorship; the Guide is the work of many hands whose contributions are much appreciated.

Feel free to share this material widely. You also may post it anyplace you feel would be advantageous for the citizens of Prince George’s County.

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Filed under Community, Developers, Environment, Growth, Planning Board, Public Input, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Public Input 101–FAIL

The new Mixed-Use Zone legislation’s progress has slowed down somewhat and M-NCPPC has heard from enough people about the lack of public input, that hey, they decided to do more! During the last week of school and on a Monday night, yippee! Hopefully you have received this postcard inviting you to a meeting next Monday, June 15 7-9 pm. It’s also on the M-NCPPC site’s google-y calendar. However, the project’s schedule does not include this meeting nor a press release been issued or posted. No email to the gazillions of addresses they have collected.

This sort of half-hearted, last minute effort is why people remain skeptical of a wide range of Park & Planning efforts. Their outreach attempts are perceived as less than sincere and undercut promising initiatives. The M-NCPPC public affairs department should provide early guidance to planning staff in these matters and adjust outreach efforts–and work flow–as necessary. Council staff learned of this Monday. First-class postcards landed Tuesday. Six days notice is really not defensible–30 days is the minimum.

Municipalities’ involvement in this process has been sketchy at best, so a meeting has also been added for mayors and council members. But, gee whiz, all those impacted towns could have included this meeting in newsletters, cable access announcements, town council meetings and let their residents know.

The new Mixed Use Zone proposed is a version of Form-Based Code. This type of code is not inherently bad by any means; however, it has usually been used in specific neighborhoods, towns or cities–rather than county-wide. Typically, it involves an extensive community visioning process, charrette and hopefully results in a community-driven form-based code.

The county’s desire to simplify our development review process is understandable. But the big concern is that the public input process, the key to a successful buy-in from the impacted communities, appears to have been faulty from the start.

Note that our current conventional zoning process is not set aside, but exists in tandem with this new Mixed Use Zone based on Form-Based Code. This could create conflicts. There will be three or four types of mixed-use zones in place: the new Route 1 Sector Plan will use SmartCode (an open source form-based code planning system by one of its leading proponents), the proposed Mixed-Use Zone, the Mixed-Use Town Centers and “Town Center in a Box” packages for developments like Konterra.

Let’s really simplify and philosophically unite the huge and odd compendium of county code. Theoretically, you do this through a community visioning process, kind of like the stalled EnVision Prince George’s. Let’s take time to get it right. We agree with the points made recently by the Sierra Club:

Prince Georgians deserve cutting edge development where we can work, live, and shop, especially near Metro stops. But the design will be satisfactory only if we the people still have a say in what goes where. Yet reading of M-NCPPC’s draft bill raises many questions, such as:
-The newly greased approval pipeline removes the opportunity for residents to express their opinion on the shape of mega-developments.
-The bill transfers the review and approval of site plans from our elected representatives and the Planning Board to planning staff.
-This new MUZ legislation does not encourage or mandate that these large developments be located at or near transit centers, where they would be most successful. Potentially all 26 designated centers and 7 corridors would be eligible for fast-tracked, large developments—whether they are appropriate for the surrounding communities or not. See the General Plan on the concept of mixed use.
-Significant modifications to the site plan can be granted by the Planning Director after site plan approval. Once a site plan is approved (without public input or review by elected officials), deviations of up to 10% for building height, architectural materials, and parking spaces can be granted—again by planning staff.

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Filed under Cities and Towns, Community, Growth, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input

Meetings, meetings

and more meetings are sure to come. Please check the Events page for a list and links.

Plus East Campus is on the fast track for development review. If you care about this development and its impact, please file a Request to Become a Person of Record. This is a easy way to stay up to date on all actions regarding a development you are concerned about. Just complete the form and use the project name University of Maryland East Campus and the DSP 08030. M-NCPPC’s Henry Zhang is doing the review along with Jeanette Reed.
9/10/08 parties were to identity major issues of concern
9/19/08 subdivision review
9/25/08 referral due date–response from concerned parties

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Filed under Growth, Planning, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor, Route 1 Sector Plan

Updating the Route 1 Sector Plan

Exciting summer reading!

Planner Chad Williams of M-NCPPC will make a presentation on the Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment on Monday for the University Park Town Council (event details here). The public is invited and Mayor John Tabori hopes residents of neighboring communities will attend as well.

Williams will discuss the possibility of extending the Route 1 Sector Plan’s boundaries, which encourages dense, mixed-use development along Route 1. The plan is currently confined to Route 1 in College Park but a preliminary proposal would move the southern boundary to East-West Highway/410. Williams will discuss

  • the plan’s purposes
  • preliminary boundaries
  • consultant team
  • timeline
  • citizen participation process

But the plan’s proposed boundaries will be the evening’s focus. The towns of University Park, Riverdale Park and the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park would be impacted by the boundary extension. What are the positives and negatives?

Would this allow Route 1 towns to better address traffic concerns? Would it involve rezoning Route 1 properties from single family to mixed use? Would it be better to pursue comprehensive planning standards along Route 1 from Eastern Ave. to 495? This might knit together our sector plans, transit districts and overlays into a coherent whole.

Williams presented a lot of information on growth in the Route 1 corridor at a crowded November gathering in College Park. His PowerPoint and the plan is available here, under Council Forum on November 2007. It provides an overview of projects already approved and in the pipeline and details the dramatic increase in housing and commercial inventory headed for Route 1.

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Filed under Calvert Hills, College Park, Community, Events, Growth, Hyattsville, Planning, Public Input, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, Route 1 Sector Plan, University Park

Schools, Purple Line Mtg. 12/17

and Other Important Odds & Ends


The Purple Line Open House will discuss the entire route and should be interesting. Especially since it seems a new southern route for the Purple Line through campus has surfaced. Map here. However, if this proposal is presented Monday, MTA, UMD and our elected officials need to allow further public input prior to moving forward. A week before Christmas is hardly an ideal meeting date and too much is riding on getting this right.

Prince George’s County Public Schools have released information about the changes necessary to accommodate a county-wide move to PreK-8th grade schools. PGCPS has settled on Version 22 of the plan. The Board of Education could take this up Thursday, January 24. The plan would be implemented in three phases. Check for your school here: choose from the drop-down menu. Several iterations may be offered, and some maybe erroneous, look at Changes and Proposed. We’ll wait to see if and when the Board provides an opportunity for community input. But you could nudge by writing the Board.

The Maryland Transportation Plan needs your input. Secretary John Porcari says: “I am very excited that the Maryland Department of Transportation will be revisiting the Maryland Transportation Plan (MTP) over the next year to update the State’s vision for transportation.” Don’t not let him down, fill out their survey.

The Route 1 Development Forum presentation by Park & Planning has been posted. It is a large file and will take a few minutes to load, but if you missed this meeting, is very much worth viewing. Yup, we really believe you’ll be examining that rather than your gift list. It is valuable though, maybe you can take a look during the post-holiday doldrums.


Filed under Developers, Environment, Growth, Public Input, Public Transit, Route 1 Corridor, Schools

Give a Gift To Our Economy: Shop Locally Owned This Holiday Season

by Stacy Mitchell

Our successful event with Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the New Rules Project, a couple weeks ago did not yield viable audio, but we can offer the slide show (you will need to hit pause between slides) and the article below which makes many of the points discussed. And to help you shop locally, check out Buy Indie.

Whether to patronize a chain or a locally owned business is not top of mind for many holiday shoppers, but it should be. It’s a choice that has profound implications for our economy.

If you shop at an independent toy store, such as Be Beep in Annapolis, Maryland, you will likely see products made by Beka, a small toy manufacturer in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A family-owned business, Beka has opted not to sell to chains like Target and Wal-Mart. Doing so, explains co-owner Jamie Kreisman, would require moving production to low-wage factories overseas, which would eliminate what he and his brothers most love about the business: their relationships with their employees and working hands-on with their products.

Beka is healthy, but its future depends entirely on the survival of independent toy stores. Over the last decade, Wal-Mart and Target have aggressively overtaken this sector and now capture 45 percent of U.S. toy sales. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Growth, Local Economy, Retail, Route 1 Corridor

Heads Up on Schools

j0401120-small.jpgA couple time-sensitive items about schools for readers to follow:
On Monday, December 3, tune to WAMU radio (88.5 FM). Dr. John Deasy joins Kojo Nnamdi in the studio live from noon to 1:00 pm. Likely topics include a preview of the planned PreK-8 restructuring of county elementary and middle schools. We may hear his strategy for addressing the looming state budget shortfall for school year 2008-09. Listen here.

On Monday evening, the PGCPS Board of Education will formally accept for “first reading” one of three plans for this PreK-8 restructuring initiative. This meeting is not open to public comment but, rather, an administrative hand off between Superintendent Deasy and school board members. (See item 15 on 12/3 agenda.) The ensuing boundary changes accompanying any of the selected plans will concern many Route 1 communities. The plan will identify possible schools for expansion of the popular language immersion, Montessori and arts education programs. View the plan after the meeting at the PGCPS board agenda website.

Stay on top of school issues in the northern region by joining this listserve. We understand that once the Board accepts a plan for the first reading, public review and comment will begin. And we expect this to be lively. Look for a schedule of meetings, perhaps as early as December, in neighborhoods to review and discuss the boundary changes that will accompany adoption of the PreK-8 initiative.–MbS & CH

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Filed under Growth, Infrastructure, Schools

Reminder: Stacy Mitchell on Connecting Retail & Growth to Community

State Street, Madison WIWednesday, November 28
7 pm Refreshments
7:30 pm Talk & Discussion
Hyattsville City Hall

4310 Gallatin St., Hyattsville MD 301-985-5000
Remember, we invited you? Join us.
As growth in the Route 1 corridor accelerates, what can we learn from other communities? How can we avoid becoming Anyplace USA? Can we use retail as a catalyst for good community development? How can local governments avoid retail sprawl and build a vibrant local business economy? From innovative small-business initiatives to cutting-edge land-use policies, Mitchell offers communities concrete strategies that can create a more prosperous and sustainable future. More on our Events page.


Filed under Community, Events, Growth, Local Economy, Retail, Route 1 Corridor

Listen Up

anm8e2d3838157781f9.gifThe standing room only Route 1 Development Forum hosted by Council Members Campos, Dernoga and Olson began a conversation that is long overdue in our area, gathering our elected representatives with planners, school and state highway officials in one room to talk with their constituents about growth. Unsurprisingly, schools and traffic surfaced as the community’s main concerns.

M-NCPPC Planner Coordinator Chad Williams quickly ran down the numbers for the 7-miles of the Route 1 corridor: 61,630 well-educated people in 20,790 dwelling units spread across stable neighborhoods. While unemployment is lower than the county average, the poverty level is above average. According to M-NCPPC, due to the University of Maryland, the area’s demographic skews younger and in some cases, poorer, than the county average.

Filed and in the development pipeline, 7,600 more units, with perhaps a total of 15,000 dwelling units including residential or mixed use projects still in the early planning stages (Cafritz, East Campus, etc.). Over 7 million square feet of retail and office space is built, under construction or planned.

While some student housing will be excluded from the school surcharge meant to fund new schools, PGCPS uses this student yield formula: multiply .44 by the number of residential units. Using the conservative number of 7,600 units, we get a yield of 3,344 new students in an already overcrowded region.

During the presentation and audience Q & A, the State Highway Administration SHA) and Prince George’s County Public Schools representatives indicated what a huge disconnect there is between our planners’ priorities and the community’s. The SHA rep suggested that traffic might be best alleviated by support for the I-95/UMD Connector, a remark that went over like a lead balloon. County and state traffic planners acknowledged that with upgrades proposed for Route 1 between Eastern Avenue and the Beltway take place, no new capacity will be gained for the corridor.

The planned improvements do not include the entire Route 1 corridor or where major new developments are under consideration, e.g., between Riverdale Park/Hyattsville and College Park. Failed intersections such as Route 1 and 410 also will not be addressed. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Elected Offcials, Events, Growth, Public Input, Schools, Traffic

You’re Invited: Connecting Retail & Growth to Community

j0430638.jpgwith Stacy Mitchell of the New Rules Project
Wednesday, November 28
7 pm Refreshments , 7:30 pm Talk & Discussion
Hyattsville City Hall, 4310 Gallatin St., 301-985-5000

Given the fast pace of new projects in the Route 1 corridor, we th0ught it might be time for us to step back, draw a breath and look at how retail can be used creatively to build strong communities. Retail is a key component of the many redevelopment projects underway. What are the best practices? How have other regions handled rapid growth or redevelopment? Please join us for a conversation about the Route 1 area’s retail future. (This is a great follow-up to the 11/15 event on comprehensive planning.)

Stacy Mitchell is a passionate advocate for communities and their local economies. Our regular readers may be familiar with Stacy Mitchell’s books and probably have noticed we have republished articles from her newsletter, The Hometown Advantage. Mitchell works with small business groups, elected officials and community organizations and local governments to strengthen locally owned businesses. She advises on new land use and economic development policies. Mitchell is a senior researcher with the New Rules Project, a program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She chairs the American Independent Business Alliance and is the author of Big-Box Swindle and Hometown Advantage.
Download flier to email. Download flier to copy.
Presented by Route 1 Growth, Route 1 area communities and community development corporations from Eastern Ave. to the Beltway. Refreshments courtesy of County Council Members Will Campos & Eric Olson.

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Filed under Community, Events, Growth, Local Economy, Retail, Route 1 Corridor

How about this idea? Economic & Community Impact Review

book-highlighter-copy.jpgThe most recent set of Cafritz meetings has passed and been memorialized. Rethink College Park has done a nice job of summarizing the meetings for those of us who were on vacation. Supposedly comments will be posted soon on the Cafritz site, however, the various slide shows promised at past meetings would be great.

Between work and back to school shopping, we have to fit in still more meetings (how do our elected officials do this?!). East Campus meetings are about to kick off and another set of Cafritz meetings are scheduled for September–it is time to hit the books again and consider how major retail centers could change our Route 1 corridor.

This article is reprinted with kind permission from The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a free email newsletter published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. To read back issues or join the mailing list, visit here. Read about comprehensive planning here. It is interesting to see how areas with much lower density are addressing community concerns creatively. We need to start somewhere in Prince George’s, why not the Route 1 area?

A number of communities now require a comprehensive economic and community impact review before approving any new retail construction. Typically, the review is triggered when the proposed development exceeds a certain size (e.g., a retail store larger than 20,000 square feet or that will generate more than 500 vehicle trips per day). Continue reading


Filed under Developers, Growth, Local Economy, Planning, Route 1 Corridor

Schools, Overcrowding & the Capital Improvement Plan


An earlier blog entry asked where the kids would attend school if a family moved into one of the new developments in our area. Let’s take a look. On the EYA web site, I found a townhouse in the Hyattsville Arts District which has completed construction and is available to move in today. OK, I can’t afford this townhouse, but if I did purchase it my children would attend an elementary school which is at 117% capacity, a middle school at %132 and a high school at 122%.

Hmmmm…I decided to try looking for another location to buy or rent. But it turns out there are other overcrowded elementary schools in our area. If I decide to buy a condo at the University Town Center, my children would attend a more crowded elementary school.

The truth is, in the Route 1 corridor, there are more children than seats in elementary, middle and high schools. New development will likely increase the number of children attending. Continue reading


Filed under Growth, Route 1 Corridor, Schools

Beer, Comprehensive Plans & Retail

beer-bottles.jpgOK, that was completely shameless–the beer’s just to get your attention. But it is summer, we know your hammock is calling to you. So get one out of the fridge, let’s talk planning.

This article is reprinted with kind permission from The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a free email newsletter published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. To read back issues or join the mailing list, visit here. The Institute’s focus is on small business vitality which is on our minds as well, the Cafritz team mentioned local businesses as a regular comment during the community input. We are somewhat concerned about so many new or redeveloping commercial centers: Univ. Town Center, EYA, Riverdale’s Town Center and more. While we do agree that our area is under served for retail, we hope to see careful and thoughtful planning given to creating a strong mix of local and national retail. Read on…

There are two primary pieces of local land use policy: the comprehensive plan and the zoning code. The comprehensive plan is essentially a vision statement containing general guidelines for development in a local jurisdiction. The plan is then implemented through the zoning code. The zoning code contains concrete rules defining which uses (commercial, residential, etc.) are allowed in each area of town and specifying certain restrictions on those uses, such as economic impact standards or limits on the scale of buildings.

Strong comprehensive plans yield a number of important benefits. In addition to serving as the basis of zoning, plans provide land use officials with guidelines for reviewing development permits and applications to rezone certain sites. Plans that clearly articulate a policy to promote small, local retail businesses and discourage corporate chains will help ensure that these goals are the focus of planning board decisions. Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Growth, Local Economy, Planning, Route 1 Corridor

Worries & Action

Route 1 Growth began with a series of, well…, worries, as we wondered what changes rapid development would bring to our crazy quilt of Rt. 1 communities and neighborhoods.

  • How will our already taxed infrastructure hold up, particularly Rt. 1 and E-W Hwy.?
  • What is the environmental cost?
  • Can our neighborhoods and towns maintain their history and sense of identity in the face of such rapid expansion?
  • What is its impact on our quality of life and community cohesion?
  • What is the impact of such a large influx of new housing inventory?
  • Will there be an impact on the racial, generational and economic diversity of Rt. 1 communities?

Some of us are natural worriers and have been thinking about this for a good while, others were nudged along by the Wachovia, Cafritz, Landy developments or others in the pipeline. So we talked to neighbors, friends, parents and people we know with a little expertise. A couple of meetings, this blog and more conversation led to the following statement of our mission, vision and principles (and here ). We need to demand more of the planning process and developers. Remember–if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Discussion welcome.

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Filed under Growth, Infrastructure, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor