By Alexander Tuerk
HYATTSVILLE – The Hyattsville City Council approved most agenda items unanimously on July 15, including support for the protection of the monarch butterfly, appropriation of a $125,000 grant for construction in Hyatt Park and the appointment of a new Hyattsville official.
Ralph Ferguson was appointed unanimously to the Hyattsville ethics commission and education advisory committee, his first roles in local government according to his application.
According to Ferguson, before applying for the two positions, he worked for 20 years in state and federal finance and accounting, as well as serving eight years as an active-duty Marine.
Two action items on the agenda were not approved unanimously. The purchase of 5812 40th Ave. to build a “teen center” and providing the support for the Miller’s Ale House site plan at The Mall at Prince George’s passed with a nay vote each. Ward Four Councilman Edouard Haba opposed the purchase and Ward Two Councilman Danny Schaible opposed the site plan.
Jim Chandler, the assistant city administrator, was present to answer questions from councilmembers and the mayor.
The 40th Avenue location consists of a 3,000-square-foot building and 25,000 square feet of green space, according to the text of the agenda. The resolution calls for the purchase of the site for $500,000 to begin building a center for teen outreach, as well as “additional general recreation space.”
According to the resolution, the location has been on the market and, at times, vacant for several years, “causing frustration among neighboring homeowners and businesses for its impact on property values, foot traffic, and general neighborhood aesthetic.” The Hyattsville City Council authorized the purchase during their June 3, 2019 meeting, and the July 15 resolution finalized the $500,000 sought.
Haba said he requested the item be moved from consent to action before the meeting, due to the councilman’s absence during the last meeting on the purchase.
“While I support the idea of a teen center, and the city buying and owning the property as has been my position,” Haba said. “I still think this specific site is not the best one for this programming.”
He said he is concerned the location will require additional renovation costs beyond the $1 million expected. That figure is an estimate of the city administrator’s office, according to a memo from May 23, 2019.
The site plan for Miller’s Ale House, a sports-pub chain, passed subject to conditions, including moving the planned micro-bioretention system and the construction of a pedestrian plaza with “ground lighting, landscaping, benches and prominent artistic/sculptural elements,” according to the summary of the meeting.
The restaurant’s distance from Route 410, stormwater management and pedestrian accessibility made up most of the discussion from councilmembers on the issue. Andre Gingles, attorney for the applicant, was also present to answer questions about the site.
“I understand it’s a big undertaking to evolve an existing mall into something that is more urban,” Schaible said. “The only way you do it is through some dramatic act or incrementally, and this might be an opportunity to effectualize some of that incremental change.” Schaible voted against Miller’s Ale House after developers said there were no other sites along the front of Route 410 that were slated for development.
During the June 18, 2019 Hyattsville Planning Committee meeting, additional concerns were raised, including comments from committee member David Marshall and Will Maxwell that the traditional tan and red color scheme of Miller’s Ale House was too “bland” for the street-facing property.
The restaurant is slated to open in the fall of this year at 3430 East-West Highway and will be the third location in Maryland, with the other two in Rockville and Bel Air. The chain has 95 locations across 13states.