UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County District Council remains undecided on the fate of the Melford business development in Bowie after taking the situation under advisement. The council must decide what to do with the property by April 24. St. John Properties, the developer of the property located at the intersection of Robert S. […]
UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County District Council remains undecided on the fate of the Melford business development in Bowie after taking the situation under advisement.
The council must decide what to do with the property by April 24.
St. John Properties, the developer of the property located at the intersection of Robert S. Crain Highway and John Hanson Highway, asked the council to approve a conceptual site plan (CSP) adding 2,500 residential units, including 500 townhouses, 1,000 senior living units and another 1,000 multifamily units, according to Robert Antonetti, an attorney representing St. John Properties.
The Prince George’s County Planning Board approved the plan but the Prince George’s Sierra Club, the Sherwood Manor Civic Association and Patuxent Riverkeeper appealed the Planning Board’s decision and requested oral arguments by the District Council.
Fred Tutman, a representative of Patuxent Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Patuxent River, said the development presents a danger to the river because of the additional impervious surfaces the development would bring.
“It’s not consistent with the Bowie and vicinity master plan or the Prince George’s County Plan 2035. It is bad for the environment, which involves those plans I just mentioned,” Tutman said.
Melford is supposed to be a county employment area in the county’s 2035 plan, Tutman said, and is not intended for any form of residential living.
Tutman said the CSP would fill out the rest of Melford’s employment area with a cul-de-sac with a single entrance in, far from any mass-transit station and Bowie Town Center, which would create traffic issues.
“This is the epitome of sprawl development—a dense, auto-dependent community,” Tutman said. “It will preempt the employment purpose and generate more congestion seven days a week.”
Tutman said he and the other groups opposing the development do want the District Council to completely halt the development, but they want the Council to make sure it conforms to current county development plans.
Martha Ainsworth, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Sierra Club, said approval of the current CSP would reduce the employment opportunities at Melford because two-thirds of the development would be for residential use instead of commercial use.
“This application clearly does not comply with the Bowie Vicinity plan, which says no more than 20 to 30 percent can be residential,” Ainsworth said.
Antonetti said because Melford is located near Bowie Town Center it is capable of being used as a residential area. Antonetti said the CSP reimagines what the Melford property could be used for, since right now the property does not function.
“Right now, Melford functions solely as a single-use employment park. It has a sub-optimal occupancy rate of about 72 percent. That is not good. That is low for the region. That is low for the county,” Antonetti said. “What we are looking to do is reinvent Melford into a mixture of uses consistent with the zoning on the property.”
Antonetti said the Bowie Vicinity plan, created in 2006, required the largest component of Melford to be employment opportunities, but it also presented residential uses for Melford’s future. It will aid the county in creating a “smart-growth development” that will rival adjacent jurisdictions, he said.
“Mixed-use is not a fad. It is here to stay,” Antonetti said. “Look at other jurisdictions who are experiencing economic success – Northern Virginia, D.C., Montgomery County, Howard County. These are all projects in areas that Melford is in positon to compete against.”
But Councilwoman Mary Lehman said the project may not fall under smart growth because of the transit issues it could create.
“I don’t know if this qualifies as smart growth,” Lehman said. “To me, smart growth involves transit oriented development, redevelopment, maybe, arguably infield development, but not something of this nature.”
Councilwoman Andrea Harrison said it remains to be seen if the development should be characterized as smart growth.
“That might be some of the concern or question or problem here, but the bottom line is that this is an MXT zone and it has been zoned that way since 2006 and it is what is there until the zone has changed,” Harrison said. “The developer of the property has an opportunity to develop using at least two of those three uses that are defined in mixed-use. That’s what I see the developer as attempting to do.”