Category Archives: Schools

Schools, Purple Line Mtg. 12/17

and Other Important Odds & Ends

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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.

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

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

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

School Surcharge 101

calculator.jpgDespite what developers say, in Prince George’s County they do not pay an impact fee–they pay a surcharge. What is the difference? Pretty big. An impact fee assigns funds to the area impacted by the development. The law in Prince George’s County, which I believe originated at the state delegation level, collects a surcharge from developers in Prince George’s County of about $12,000 per unit outside the Beltway and $7,000 per unit inside (to stimulate revitalization). These amounts are linked to a formula and typically increase each year.

What is the case for a surcharge rather than an impact fee? Collecting a surcharge from each unit developed (dorms and senior housing are normally excluded) allows money to pool in the General Fund. Monies can move from the General Fund for allocation throughout the county via the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The surcharge strategy spreads out the benefit of new development to communities without comparable growth.

What is the downside of the surcharge? The neighborhoods needing school seats, especially to accommodate the new development-based increase in school-age children, may not see any benefit. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, Infrastructure, Planning, Schools

Calvert Hills: Not Just Another Link in the Chain

img_1117-small.jpgCalvert Hills is a small section of College Park situated between the famed Cafritz property and the Old Town of College Park. In 2003, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood’s defining feature is the old trolley trail, a raised berm that was recently upgraded with a $90,000 grant from the State of Maryland. Many people probably see our section of the trail as just another segment on the greater bike trail system. Plans are underway to extend the trail to the south to Riverdale and possibly beyond. With the development of the Cafritz property and points south, I fear Calvert Hills will be viewed as a potential transportation link connecting the new commercial areas. Route 1 is at capacity and it would be easy to look to other routes to connect these areas.

To Calvert Hills residents, the trolley trail path is not just a passage, but a valued destination, a “place” in and of itself. The “bike path” is one of the few spots you see kids playing.img_1112-small.jpg Neighbors congregate in the evening, walking dogs or steadying toddlers on bikes. Sometimes you have to dodge an ad hoc skate park created by neighborhood kids and there are often chalk designs drawn on the pavement. Pirate flags appear on occasion. Many of our neighborhood traditions focus on the bike path–for example, our annual summer block party and our New Year’s Eve progressive party with midnight fireworks and trumpet serenade on the path. It would be an adjustment to have strangers walking and biking through our neighborhood but I think most folks in Calvert Hills will accept the bike trail extension.

And what about the Cafritz property? That’s a mixed bag. It has languished with old broken pavement and pipes, a ratty fence, and trash strewn along Route 1. A scrappy path has been worn along the curb as a substitute for a sidewalk. On rainy days, people walk in the road to avoid the mud on their way to College Park. Homeless people camp in the woods on the property. But farther down the property there is a beautiful meadow that goes down to the tracks with remnants of old roses and herds of deer go bounding over the remains of the trolley trail. Something could be done to enhance the value of this property for the good of the community.

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Schools

Schools, Overcrowding & the Capital Improvement Plan

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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

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Filed under Growth, Route 1 Corridor, Schools

Mr. Blumberg’s Luxury Apartments

monopoly-houses-small.jpgAt Monday’s University Park town council meeting, Developer Marvin Blumberg, his attorney and landscape architect presented their most recent plans for the 34-acre Landy Property at Belcrest Road behind Northwestern HS. This is one big elephant.

A previous post provides a solid project description, but new, expanded or clearer information provided at the meeting is covered below. Please note that the Landy Staff Report (issued July 3) is now available for fun holiday reading and this uses a different number of units than mentioned in this recent meeting. Blumberg requested a continuance from the Planning Board, it is possible that 7/26 will be the new hearing date.

  • Upon completion 1262 one and two bedroom luxury apartments (presenters were unclear about any 3 bedroom units, county regs. would require these to be condo units) with 2000 bedrooms.
  • To ensure luxury, Mr. Blumberg’s most used descriptor, the entire property is to be fenced (no more than five feet high) and gated at three access points. The main access would be on Belcrest Rd. with another one onto Northwest Drive and a third, tradespersons only, access onto Dean Drive.
  • Mr. Blumberg does not think this development will attract folks with children. To further allay concerns about school overcrowding, he consented to set aside one third of the units for students and folks 55 and older.
  • The visual impact of Landy Project’s seven 16 story glass, steel and reinforced concrete towers will be huge, especially from Adelphi Rd. The Landy towers are about the same height as the University Town Center student suites, on Belcrest Road across from Target. To get a sense of size and scope of the Landy towers try to visualize seven UTCs in close proximity!

Most University Park council members’ questions covered school overcrowding concerns which Mr. Blumberg’s attorney assured us was an issue they have heard and sympathize with, but really they have very limited means to do anything about. Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Landy Property, Planning, Schools