BOWIE – For now, the mayor and city council are enjoying time off to celebrate the holidays, but when they come back in January they will have to deal with several issues, including appointing a new member to the council and finalizing plans for a new marketplace. “I expect they will solve that in January,” […]
BOWIE – For now, the mayor and city council are enjoying time off to celebrate the holidays, but when they come back in January they will have to deal with several issues, including appointing a new member to the council and finalizing plans for a new marketplace.
“I expect they will solve that in January,” Bowie City Manager David Deutsch said of the vacancy on the council created by Todd Turner’s election to the County Council. “In terms of other issues, we’re hopeful that the marketplace redevelopment begins in earnest in 2015.”
The city council approved a $975K plan for the demolition of the currently deteriorating Bowie Marketplace earlier this year. Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said the marketplace continues to deteriorate, but he is hopeful the developer, Berman Enterprises, will work with the city to create a mutually-beneficial plan.
“The critical thing there was to get a grocery store to sign on as the anchor,” Robinson said. “We finally accomplished that; Harris Teeter is going to locate there. It’s a high-end, lovely grocery store. I think the public is going to be very pleased with the service.”
However, some local business owners, such as the owner of a neighboring gas station, are concerned because Harris Teeter wants to operate its own gas station.
The council must also deal with negative feedback after approving a mixed-use development at the Melford property, which will include 2,500 housing units, some retail and additional office space. The county recently approved the conceptual site plan. Deutsch said he hopes that construction begins in 2015, or at least the city can begin the process of gaining the necessary approvals to move forward.
“I’m really pleased with the direction it’s going,” Robinson said. “I know there’s a lot of controversy because we’re going to introduce some residential there, but I think at the end of the day, when people look at what the overall plan is, my guess is the vast majority of people will say this is what we want to do.”
Upcoming legislation includes a bill designed to grant cities in Prince George’s County with some additional authority over land-use decisions. Deutsch said it’s a “quest” that started over two decades ago with the goal of allowing the council to make decisions locally.
Also, as it must every year, the council needs to pass a budget for 2016. Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan announced a $600 million drop in state revenue, which could have potential effects on the city’s budget.
“Our staff is already working on that,” Deutsch said. “We will be affected to a significant degree by what happens to the state budget. We don’t know what will happen with how we use our revenue.”
Robinson said another major agenda item involves waiting for a decision on the Walmart project planned at the Duvall Village Shopping Center. Also, Robinson said creating a new indoor recreation facility is a “big budget item.”
“We’re going to spend the remainder of this year looking for potential sites to build,” Robinson said. “Now, that ripples across the Bowie Racetrack site. We’re trying to buy the Bowie Racetrack site. That’s where I would put the new building, but we don’t own that yet so we’re still looking at options and alternatives.”
Robinson said he would also like to keep tax rates stable, especially after keeping them flat for the last five years.
“I’ve already told council I think we’ve done very well on maintaining the flat tax rate and I want to do that again this year,” Robinson said. “So I want them to start with the idea that there will be no tax increase this year.”
Councilmember Diane Polangin said she is looking forward to 2015.
“We’re in a great redevelopment phase right now,” she said. “We’ll never get the final say because we don’t have our own zoning authorities but we do want to be able to say what we want our city to look like. It’s going to be pretty exciting times.”