Category Archives: Planning

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

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

Countywide Visioning Process Launches

Envision Prince George's

Friday brought the second one-day economic outlook forum called “Envision Prince George’s” sponsored by the Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), along with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Prince George’s County government. And while the morning was interesting and worthwhile, the afternoon presentations were the real deal.

Dr. Stephen Fuller, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis and professor of public policy at George Mason University gave a frank and unvarnished assessment of the strengths of the county and pulled no punches as he discussed where we were and where we needed to be to compete regionally for jobs. He spoke persuasively about past land use decisions and current opportunities. Richard Florida, professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City, followed with a fairly general talk. But on the heels of Fuller’s brief, it had a little more impact.

Planning Board Chairman Samuel J. Parker, Jr. stole the show though with his announcement that the Planning Board would launch a visioning process, with an opportunity for significant public input. This process, while long overdue, will allow community input to shape our area’s future development.

Envision Prince George’s has four major goals:

  • Educate a broad cross-section of community stakeholders about the collaborative visioning process and need for their participation.
  • Engage individuals and groups across the county in a facilitated process to solicit their input into the vision for the county’s future.
  • Articulate their desired outcomes as a shared vision for quality of life in the county.
  • Translate that vision into subsequent goals and implementation strategies that help shape agency work programs and guide county policies. (Emphasis added)

The final product will be a community development framework that can inform decision-making, for example, in land use development, planning, and community services that are in alignment with future vision of the county as described by its committed and engaged citizenry.

Many jurisdictions across the country have forward-thinking plans, one of them is just across the Potomac. In 1960, Arlington County, Virginia adopted a comprehensive plan with five basic elements. Politicians have come and gone, but the comprehensive plan has continued to provide a unifying framework for Arlington’s growth. It has been updated, but basic principles remain intact and the county is now the transit-oriented development model for the rest of the nation.

Let’s hope that the same sort of coherent and community-driven plan, along with an updated zoning ordinance, can come out of Prince George’s visioning process. Kudos to Mr. Parker and his colleagues for kicking this off. Visit the project site and sign up now to help shape your county.

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Filed under Community, Events, Infrastructure, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

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

Ann Arbor Lessons

As we contemplate the changes that East Campus will bring to College Park, it is worth learning from other college towns. Insights into a Lively Downtown may provide both ideas for remaking the existing downtown and the correct scale for East Campus. This runs 20 minutes and sometimes states the obvious…on the way to explaining why downtowns tick.

Thanks to Kirk Westphal, University of Michigan urban planning 2006 graduate, for posting this. Westphal’s description–
What makes a downtown district appealing? Why do people go out of their way to walk down one side of the street and not the other? Using the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan as a case study, this exploration of successful downtown streets weaves together pedestrian interviews with footage of streetscapes and sidewalk behavior to show what healthy blocks have in common.

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Filed under Community, Design, Downtown, Local Economy, Planning, Retail

Our Fortunes & the Cafritz Family

fortune-cookie-small-small-wince.jpgThis weekend the Cafritz Property development team will unveil their concept plan for the 35.8 acre site.
Sat., Sept. 15 10-12 am
Tues., Sept. 18 7-9 pm
Riverdale Elementary School, 5006 Riverdale Road, Riverdale Park, MD.

Expect it to be heavy on retail and very dense. This site is just a couple acres smaller than East Campus…where 2000 units of housing and lots of retail are planned. We will be spared another round of “stations.” Instead, the team will make a short presentation followed by a lengthy questions and answer period. We hope for greater detail and substance than past presentations.

Our previous Cafritz posts may provide a starting place as you consider our community’s future. But we need to look beyond the Cafritz Property and to the growth taking place up and down the Route 1 corridor. The number of units, approved and planned, is truly amazing. Rethink College Park did a quick rundown almost a year ago and this does not include the recently approved Landy Property’s 1200 units and EYA’s expansion–or Univ. Town Center.

While the Whole Foods repeatedly mentioned by the team may belong somewhere nearby, it–and other destination retail–does not belong on this site. The site’s location, just north of the failing intersection of Route 1 and 410, makes this type of development unworkable. Access is limited–all vehicular traffic would end up on Route 1 alone. There is no alternate route. Those of you caught in the recent traffic jam that turned Route 1 from 495 to this property into a parking lot, may understand most clearly what our future could look like. A small amount of retail that is attractive to the immediate area may be tolerable, but anything more will simply cannibalize Riverdale Park, Hyattsville and College Park’s efforts to revitalize or redevelop their town centers. Continue reading

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Events, Infrastructure, Planning, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor, Sustainability