Intended for publication in the Gazette Newspapers
Letters to the Editor / Community Forum
June 7, 2001

A Crossroads for the Greenbelt Metro

Very soon, the Prince George's County Council will choose between two development schemes for the Greenbelt Metro Station. One involves a good attempt at urban planning, while the other involves good old Prince George's County politics. What is at stake is one of the largest stations on the Metro system and possibly the largest block of undeveloped land inside the beltway. Altogether, nearly 240 acres are involved in a project that might best be compared to Pentagon City. It's a complicated tale, of course.

On one side is the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and the municipalities of Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights, and College Park. Over a period of three years and countless public meetings, nearly 40 people worked together to draft a zoning and land use plan to protect the environment and local communities surrounding the Greenbelt Metro station. When it was done they called it the Greenbelt Metro Area Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment. It's a free document, published a year ago.

On the other side are Councilman Thomas Hendershot of New Carrolton, Audrey Scott of Bowie, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro), one large property owner (Metrolands, LLC), and several lawyers. They worked mostly with their own consultants and made their own plans. They never asked for public comment or held a public meeting until they filed their plans with the County two months ago.

As you might expect, there are significant differences between the Greenbelt Sector Plan and the Conceptual Site Plan and Preliminary Plan of Subdivision filed by Metrolands, LLC. Here are a few:

Of course, there are other differences as well, but perhaps the one that that ought to concern every civic-minded person in Prince George's County are the shockingly different ways these two plans evolved. Unfortunately, when it comes to development in P.G. County, the legal processes to guarantee public involvement and the independence of M-NCPPC can be manipulated with relative ease and impunity.

In the case of the Greenbelt Metro, there is good reason to believe that the M-NCPPC planning process was just a smokescreen for the real plan being developed in secret. Through special interest legislation (CB-35), Councilman Hendershot and the County Council effectively sidestepped the zoning laws on the books and took the Greenbelt Metro development out of the public review process. And later, as if that maneuver was not shameless enough, the Council replaced it (ostensibly to suit the developer) with a new version, CB-47.

In a week or so, the County Council will hold a public hearing on the Greenbelt Sector Plan. The main thrust, of course, is planning for the Metro Station and the surrounding area. If the Sector Plan is approved, then Metrolands would be subjected to its requirements. But no… Mr. Hendershot is not done! He has now introduced an amendment to the Sector Plan that would exempt the 240 acres involved in the Greenbelt Metro site from abiding by the requirements of the Sector Plan and thus allow Metrolands, LLC to build what they want and cut M-NCPPC and virtually everyone else out of the process.

The fate of both the M-NCPPC Greenbelt Sector Plan and the Metrolands Conceptual Site Plan will soon be decided. The Greenbelt Sector Plan represents one of the most intense planning projects ever undertaken by this County. It should be passed without further delay or foolish amendment by the County Council, not only because it is a good plan, but because doing so affirms the importance of honest government and sound urban planning. The Metrolands Conceptual Site should be rejected because it is neither.


John M. Krouse
Member, Greenbelt Metro Area Sector Planning Group
Chair, City of College Park Committee for a Better Environment