HYATTSVILLE – A hopeful developer of an area of Baltimore Avenue may be a little blue after the Hyattsville City Council voted to send a list of requirements to the Prince George’s Planning Board they want to be met before development plans are approved. “The Blue” development, which is planned for 5334 Baltimore Ave., was […]
HYATTSVILLE – A hopeful developer of an area of Baltimore Avenue may be a little blue after the Hyattsville City Council voted to send a list of requirements to the Prince George’s Planning Board they want to be met before development plans are approved.
“The Blue” development, which is planned for 5334 Baltimore Ave., was discussed at the Aug. 1 city council meeting during the council’s action items agenda. In total, the location is approximately 24,000 square feet with 18 townhomes currently planned.
The city specifically laid out five criteria in its letter to the Prince George’s County Planning Board that address the concerns the city has regarding the development. Concerns included vehicle access and circulation and the lack of public amenity space “critical to the fabric of long-term successful neighborhoods,” according to council documents.
The five criteria include requesting the applicant secure shared access to the existing “fully signalized intersection south” of the site; a minimum of two proposed home sites revised to a contiguous non-buildable lot, which will be used for greenspace; the greenspace at minimum should include a sitting place, walkway and a dog park or playground; any pedestrian lighting on Baltimore Avenue and in the development is “required to meet Pepco specifications;” and the installation of bike racks on-site, in Centennial Park and at City Lot No. 5 consistent with the branding type used by the city.
During the meeting, Jim Chandler, the assistant city administrator, forwarded recommendations from the city’s planning committee and city staff to the council for consideration on the matter. However, conflict arose when the representative for the developer said his client was being treated unfairly, as they were under the impression they would get to present at the meeting, and the attorney felt the city’s planning committee had not allowed the developer ample opportunity to resubmit plans.
“I was given every understanding that we were to have a hearing here this evening, where we would be afforded an opportunity to make a presentation to the council,” said Larry Taub, the legal representation for the developer.
Taub and Mark Ferguson, another representative for the development, said they felt there had not been ample opportunity for the developer to make his case to the planning committee or to council.
The proposal for development had gone before the city council in October of 2015. Since then, the city’s planning committee met to discuss the plan and found numerous points of concern, according to minutes provided from the meeting.
At the June 21 committee meeting, Maureen Foster said she is worried the community is accepting a “sub-par project” and said a better project should be explored, while Huber May raised concerns with the shelf life of the project. He said the development doesn’t work for the location and it will see quick turnover.
“There is no parking for guests. The proposed ‘pork chop’ does not work and is unsafe,” the committee’s minutes read, quoting that May did not understand how the project got as far as it has.
The developer was not at the June 21 committee meeting; however, committee members said the plan was almost identical to the one presented in October.
The developer is planning 18 town homes in a .55-acre lot in 14, 16 and 18-foot widths. While the townhomes will have garages, there will not be additional parking for guests and the site will only be accessible by traveling southbound on Baltimore Avenue, creating a right-in, right-out entrance. Eight town homes are planned to face the avenue, with four on each side of the entrance, and 10 more town homes are planned for inside the site.
At the end of the June 21 committee meeting, the committee unanimously decided to advise the council not to support the project as currently planned, which the developers asked the committee to reconsider.
“The committee chairs were advised of the request by the applicant and committee chairs stated that the position of the committee had been made clear and that unless the applicant was presenting fundamental changes to the project, the committee’s position was final,” City Administrator Tracey Nicholson told the council in a memo.
Ferguson said there had been a “lapse in communication,” which had prevented the developer from knowing there was a meeting in June and said the committee would not entertain a second meeting to discuss changes made to the plan. Taub said the way it happened was unfair to the developer.
“We’re not opposed to all the conditions. We have some particular concerns, but I want to make the point also that we specifically requested, after we had heard that we were not notified originally of the second planning committee hearing, I specifically requested of the committee that we be allowed to have another meeting and to be there,” Taub said. “It just doesn’t seem fair to us that we’re in this position.”
However, both Councilman Patrick Paschall and Chandler rebuked the attorney’s claims and said they were simply not doing their jobs. Chandler emphasized that he did not tell the developers, at any point, they could present their project at the council meeting.
Chandler said the changes the applicant made to the plan were minimal and did not address the major concerns of the plan.
“There are several issues with this project that are unworkable,” he said.
Chandler believes the conditions the city presented are reasonable and will be attainable if the applicant is approved by the planning board, but said those changes do not “bless this project as something that we think adds tremendous value to the city.”
The planning committee will likely make a decision on the matter at its Sept. 22 meeting, though the park and planning staff requested the city’s comments be made by mid-August.