UPPER MARLBORO – Developers are ready to break ground and get the big machines rolling at the West Hyattsville development next to the Metro station, but the Prince George’s County Planning Board needs a few more assurances before any housing construction begins. Although only the detailed site plan for infrastructure (including the grading, infill and […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Developers are ready to break ground and get the big machines rolling at the West Hyattsville development next to the Metro station, but the Prince George’s County Planning Board needs a few more assurances before any housing construction begins.
Although only the detailed site plan for infrastructure (including the grading, infill and roadways of the Riverfront at West Hyattsville Metro) was presented before the planning board at its March 23 meeting, some board members expressed concerns with the safety of the future development – particularly the lighting of alleyways.
The plan for the development includes demolishing a currently vacant warehouse building, grading parts of the land and raising the elevation of some parts of the parcel out of the flood plain. The detailed site plan submitted to the planning department included the location and design of the roadways as well as the lot layout for a 183-townhouse development, the placement of parking lots and on-street parking, and the desired landscaping, utility locations, fencing and sidewalks, but was not a final site plan for development.
“In order to make this property developable they have to put lots of landfill in this project and bring it up out of the floodplain,” said Susan Lareuse, the staff member in charge of the case.
The hearing on the plan raised several questions about the future development and how its construction would affect the surrounding parkland, trails and roads. In particular, Lareuse raised staff concerns about the trails to and from the Metro station that enter and surround the property.
Staff made recommendations to address the trail and other issues. In condition “1F” for approval, the planning staff stated that the developer must “construct a temporary asphalt sidewalk connection from the end of Emerald Branch Drive, as shown on the site plan, to the existing sidewalk leading to the existing tunnel to the West Hyattsville Metro. This temporary connection shall not be constructed until safe access can be provided through the subject site.”
Although the planning board made the temporary trail a condition for approval, Tom Haller, the attorney for the developers, said the company is more than willing to do so and said the developers had a specific plan to address the walkway.
“If we proceed with a detailed site plan and construction of the multifamily concurrent with the town houses, we will design into that detailed site plan the appropriate location for that trail connection,” he said. “If the multifamily trails are blocked by the construction of the town houses, then we will provide a temporary sidewalk that will run through that parcel.”
Other conditions for approval of the infrastructure plan include adding a document that includes specific locations and details about where the developers would provide off-site trail lighting and security cameras on the trail between the Metro station and Queens Chapel Road, a conceptual plan showing where Capital Bikeshare stations could go, additional fences around the play areas, 36 more ornamental trees and additional shade trees, additional seating throughout the plan, and “native planting to the greatest extent possible.”
However, the most contentious condition involved the future street and property lighting in the development, particularly alleyway lighting.
Lareuse noted that staff had concerns about the lighting proposals, but also said there is confusion about the extent to which the property developers must light the development, as there are several conflicting requirements laid out in different sections of the county code and development plans for the area.
“The only issue that has really come up between the applicants proposal and the staff’s recommendation that has come to be issue is relating to the lighting of the alleys for the development,” she said. “We had suggested that the allies be lit to the industry standard as opposed to the requirement of the sector plan.”
The specific issue is that there is currently no lighting proposed in the alleyways. The development plan requirement is a 1.25-foot candle (illumination circle around the light), while the county typically requires a one-foot candle, and the illumination society suggestion is .2 to .6-foot candle.
The conditions passed by the planning board state that the developers must “include lighting of the alleys and sidewalks, and demonstrate on a photometric plan the minimum lighting levels as recommended by the Illuminated Engineering Society of North America Handbook in regard to residential lighting.”
Haller said he would look further into the actual requirements due to a perceived burden the current lighting requirement would put on his clients. Haller said there is no way to provide the level of lighting required by the county, but said the developer could put lights on each of the townhouses that would be controlled by the homeowners
“We’d have to have a light pole on every light. We can’t do that, so we request a modification,” Haller said. “All of the units would have lights on the rear of unit, lighting the alleyways.”
Planning Board Commissioner William Doerner said he has serious concerns about safety, particularly because he believes crime is heavier in that section of Hyattsville and he didn’t want the lighting of the alleyways to be dependent on the “whims” of homeowners
“This particular ward has higher crime rates than the rest of the city and around this area, and as you well know – you probably got a pretty good price for this piece of property – because it’s lower property values and it tends to be higher crime,” he said. “This redevelopment looks great and its definitely what’s needed in there but… there’s still going to be potential crime in these areas and I’m concerned about the lighting.”
Although the official plan for the subdivision and townhouse lots, which would include the final lighting plan, was not before the planning board in that moment, Doerner said he would seriously consider voting against the development if the lighting issue is not addressed.
Haller said the developers will provide a lighting plan in the final detailed site plan.
The ultimate plan must also go before the District Council for a review on the land uses, which were laid out in a 2006 West Hyattsville transit development plan. The developers have applied to amend that plan, which is why it must be reviewed at a higher level.