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Council votes against Metro project

by Amy Boyes
Staff Writer

July 5, 2001

The Greenbelt City Council voted unanimously on Monday to oppose two separate plans for a proposed 132-acre development near the Greenbelt Metro Station.

Developers Metroland, L.L.C. have submitted two plans to the Prince George's County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).

The board is scheduled to hold two separate public hearings on the plans the Conceptual Site Plan and the Preliminary Plan of Subdivision during its meeting on July 12.

The conceptual plan includes design features for the proposed development, while the preliminary plan subdivides the land into smaller parcels, according to a July 2001 staff report provided to the Greenbelt City Council.

Celia Craze, the director of Greenbelt's Department of Planning and Community Development, said the proposals will begin to pinpoint what certain areas of the land will be used for.

About 50 people attended the meeting.

Greenbelt's planning department staff said they were concerned about the terminology used in the two plans to describe the development. They were also concerned about traffic and environmental impacts, and developers' conformance with existing guidelines.

The conceptual plan proposes a North and South core for the development. Generally the North Core, which is closest to the Metro station, is within Greenbelt's boundaries, and the South Core is unincorporated, Craze said.

The developers are proposing a high-density mixed-use development in the north, which includes residential, upscale retail, hotel and office space. The plans also identify lesser density mixed-use development in the south that would include residential, retail and office space.

"The project is predicated on approvals for the Beltway ramp, state and federal approvals for wetland impacts, and the approval of storm water management details," staff said in their report. "Even should these approvals be forthcoming, this does not mean that the proposed development ... reflects good planning. ..."

Some members of the public who spoke criticized the proposed regional retail mall for the North Core area. They also raised concerns about the impact of the development on air quality and on nearby businesses.

Norman Rivera, an attorney for Metroland, asked the council to delay voting on the issues. He requested time for the developers' experts to respond to city concerns. Rivera said the plans had been revised to address some of the concerns nearby communities had raised in the past.

"There's been a greater attempt to integrate the uses," he said.

Councilman Rodney Roberts said that not enough had changed on the plans. He said the developers needed to change things the city has continuously pointed out as being problematic.

"I'm glad to hear you're willing to work with us," Roberts said to Rivera. "Right now I think the timeline we're facing is in the developers' court, in the County Council's court."

Mayor Judith Davis said the council had to make a decision before the upcoming public hearing. "We have a certain time schedule we have to meet," she said.

The council approved the motion to oppose both plans. The city will send a list of concerns to the planning board to support its position.

Among the concerns staff raised is the proposed building heights in the plans, which they say exceed those proposed in the Greenbelt Metro Area Sector Plan.

The buildings will "result in an urban form intrusive and incompatible with adjacent residential neighborhoods," according to their findings.

"The more that we can show that this [vote] is not a knee-jerk reaction from a bunch of tree-huggers ... the more viable we are," Davis said.

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