UPPER MARLBORO – Although the Hyattsville City Council did not think The Blue development, slated for an abandoned lot on Route 1, was anything to write home about, the Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved its detail site plan. Last week, the preliminary plan for subdivision and detailed site plan for The Blue development […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Although the Hyattsville City Council did not think The Blue development, slated for an abandoned lot on Route 1, was anything to write home about, the Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved its detail site plan.
Last week, the preliminary plan for subdivision and detailed site plan for The Blue development in Hyattsville came before the county planning board just three days after the Hyattsville City Council declined to support the project outright during their Oct. 3 council meeting.
Although the city had set out two “nonnegotiables” that must be fixed with the project before Hyattsville would sign on, the planning board and Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning (M-NCPPC) staff approved the project, with conditions.
The two requirements the city laid out at its meeting included increasing the width of the road inside the complex to meet city and county standards so the city could take responsibility for maintenance and finding a way to alter the right-in/right-out traffic pattern, which James Chandler, the assistant city administrator, said will cause headaches in the area.
“With respect to the other revisions, to the site plan, by all accounts the applicant has made a best effort to respond to the other conditions laid out by the city council,” Chandler said at the council meeting.
At the planning board meeting last Thursday, Chandler, as well as Sevag Balian, president of Haverford Homes, the developer of the lot; Larry Taub, the legal representation for the developer; and Mark Ferguson from RDA Engineering all had a chance to speak about the development.
Taub called the infill development a “small but complicated” project that the developer has worked hard on to meet Hyattsville’s criteria as well as the planning board’s. Ferguson said that although the development did not meet Hyattsville’s two nonnegotiable points, he and Balian have changed the plan numerous times to meet expectations.
Part of those changes included reducing the number of proposed townhomes from 18 to 16, including a small parcel of land for storm water management, changing the sidewalk plan, and providing a plan to extend the inner road if the site next door were developed in a way to create a connective street.
The property where the development is proposed used to house the Bluebird Cab Company. Balian bought the property in 2005 and said he has always wanted to create “something special there.”
But many in Hyattsville feel that, despite the care taken in the plan and the expressed desire to use all high-quality material in the development, The Blue development is not the kind of special they want in that part of the city.
Hyattsville Councilman Patrick Paschall said he didn’t approve of the development at all and would prefer it not be built in that location and made a motion at the council meeting to say the city opposed the development.
“I think that putting residential townhomes in that location is inconsistent with all of the surroundings along that strip of road,” he said. “In this case it is a use that it is zoned for already and the question is the details. For me this rises to the level of opposing in spite of those facts.”
Paschall said the development could break up the residential zone and harm the city’s ability to incentivize commercial development in the area.
One major point for the city is the possible traffic violations that would result from the right-in/right-out entrance to the complex. Chandler said this could result in new residents making u-turns in the tight Route 1 intersection at Hamilton and Jefferson streets.
But Commissioner Elizabeth Hewlett said she didn’t believe people would choose a u-turn on Route 1 when an alternate route through the neighborhood would lead to a shorter commute, time-wise.
The other of the two criteria the Hyattsville council said is nonnegotiable is the size of the inner road of the complex, which does not meet city standards. That means the city will not take responsibility for the road and tenants of the complex will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep. Upkeep comes with a serious cost, which Chandler believes in unbearable for 16 home owners.
“We would very much like to take this road as a public roadway. We’re asking for 26 feet of pavement, which is (the) minimum recommended pavement for public roadways,” Chandler said. “We do not want the homeowners here to be responsible for the maintenance and long-term replacement for this roadway.”
That argument was refuted by both M-NCPPC staff, who said the county is in the process of reconsidering its road width standards, and by Taub, who said the developer just does not have the room to widen the street.
“There’s not a lot of room there and I can tell you absolutely, positively, if we had to give another four feet to meet the standards, we would lose half of the site. We would lose half of the townhouses at least,” Taub said. “We just don’t have the room to do that.”
Both Taub and Hewlett said they hope the city would consider taking the street in the future when the county’s requirements change, but Chandler said he would not commit the city to a theoretical situation.