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Hello, Crystal City: Greenbelt station plans are eye-appealing but not sensible

June 28, 2001

This letter is in response to the June 7 letter ["Greenbelt station project is well-deserved] by Mr. Matthew Thomas of Clinton, who wrote about the Greenbelt Station development. Mr. Thomas insinuates that Citizens to Conserve and Restore Indian Creek (CCRIC) has used distortion designed to blur the issues and needs of our county. I'd like to state some facts of my own.

Mr. Thomas claims that this project will bring over a half billion dollars in taxes into our county coffers. Councilman Thomas R. Hendershot (D-Dist. 3) of New Carrollton has only predicted $4 to possibly $6 million a year. At that rate, it will take 100 years to reach Mr. Thomas' half a billion-dollar figure.

Mr. Thomas claims that 12,000 new jobs will be created. The numbers I've heard are around 6,000 and that is not sure because we don't know what is planned for the site yet.

Mr. Thomas claims that this one development will make it possible for us to retain most of the $1 billion per year in retail sales that leave our county. I refuse to believe that people who live closer to Annapolis Mall, or work near White Flint or Pentagon City are going to change their shopping habits because we may have upscale retail in Greenbelt. So far, no upscale retailers have signed on.

Now some facts that were drawn directly from the developers' Conceptual Site Plan filed with the county, and their traffic and retail studies.

* Fact: In order for this development to work, an additional full interchange needs to be constructed on the Capital Beltway within one mile of Kenilworth Avenue and one mile of U.S. Route 1, and a connector road to Greenbelt Road. This is in an area that is heavily traveled by 18-wheelers on their way from the Wilson Bridge to I-95 north. Again, we are being asked to use our tax money to build interchanges and roads to make private development work, shades of Fed Ex Field.

* Fact: The development is projected to bring into the local and interstate roads up to 32,500 car trips a day by 2005 and 72,500 car trip a day by completion in 2013. These cars will clog the already overloaded Beltway and spill onto Rhode Island Avenue, Route 1, Greenbelt Road and Kenilworth Avenue. Independent studies by the cities of College Park and Greenbelt have concluded that the traffic will be so bad people will not want to live or shop at the site because it will not be easily accessible.

* Fact: There are slated to be up to 2,175 dwelling units in this complex That is only 700 less than in Springhill Lake Apartments, and there have been no provisions made to make sure the schools are available for the students this will bring.

The developers are asking to place up to 6 million square feet of retail, office and hotel space on this site. Hello, Crystal City.

They are asking for 20-story buildings, which will tower over the one-story homes in North College Park. They want an enclosed shopping mall where the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the citizens of College Park, Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights have drawn up a sector plan that calls for a transit-oriented village, with broad avenues, trees, pedestrian access and streetside shops, similar to what exists in Reston, Va. What the developers have presented at town and city meetings are pictures of tall glass buildings and parking garages lining the one road and the Metro station and tracks. That's really eye-appealing solid walls of glass and concrete, very upscale and classy.

Yes, CCRIC wants to save the last remnant of the Hollywood Swamp that remains. Yes, we want to protect the endangered plants and animals in the environmental envelope. Yes, this is a tributary of the Anacostia River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, but we are also concerned with the quality of life for the people living in and around this development. Our way of life is being endangered.

We are not antidevelopment. We are for sensible development, and this development as proposed is not sensible.

The developers and owners need to go back to the drawing board and present the towns and cities this will affect with a more sensible design one we and everyone else in the Metropolitan D.C. area can live with.

Pat Blankenship is a Berwyn Heights resident and the chairwoman of CCRIC.

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