LAUREL – The Laurel Mayor and City Council received a briefing from their police department and approved a couple of ordinances on development and a budget amendment in their meeting on July 22.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe issued a proclamation to Laurel Police Chief Russ Hamill declaring Aug. 6 National Night Out in Laurel. The country-wide event, founded in 1984, takes place every year on the first Tuesday in August, and its purpose is to connect the community.
Hamil encouraged people to come to the 36th annual National Night Out for an opportunity to get to know the police and see them in a different light.
The former Montgomery County acting police chief, who will officially be sworn in as the Laurel chief of police during National Night Out, then gave a briefing where he detailed two recent crimes that the police department is currently investigating.
One of them was a homicide that took place two weeks prior. Hamill did not give much information on this crime but assured the public that the police are doing their due diligence to investigate the crime.
“It’s not like on TV. On TV they’ve got an hour to solve it, and the DNA is always right. Everything is always right. It’s not like that, a lot of times it’s just good old fashioned police work,” Hamill said. “I promise you though, they are working extremely hard at this.”
Hamill divulged another shooting that took place on the night of July 19 at the 14300 block of Rosemore Lane. According to Hamill, the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) broke up a party in Lanham. People from that party then arrived in Laurel where they continued until the party broke up around midnight.
Around 12:30 a.m., the Laurel Police Department (LPD) received a call for shots fired, and the police responded. The investigation revealed that there had been an altercation after the party. Five shots total had been fired, but the victim and their friends were not involved in the altercation. The victim was taken to a local hospital and was treated.
Detectives had been on the case all weekend, and Hamill asked that anyone who knows anything about the situation call the city police department.
Finally, Hamill revealed that there had been an issue with people getting their cars broken into as of late.
Sometimes, people do not call the police because they do not think it is something the police need to handle, but Hamill urged people to call if that happens. It helps the department develop patterns so that the police can address the problem and redirect resources.
The council then discussed an ordinance for mixed-use development to be located off of Westside Boulevard and Van Dusen Road. The agenda item had been tabled on April 22 to give the developer time to meet with the community. Council President Frederick Smalls requested that it be taken off the table and voted on that night.
The applicant’s conceptual site plan proposed to revise the development of phase three of Westside Townhomes, where the retail area would be reduced to a maximum of 40,000 square feet and proposed an additional 81 townhouses.
After two public hearings in April and June, the City of Laurel Planning Commission approved the plan on the conditions that the Laurel Mayor and City Council approve it and that it meets all developmental requirements.
Attorney Edward Gibbs, representing the owner and developer of Westside, said that after coming before the planning commission in April, they found that the people who lived in the community of 56 townhomes felt upset that their outreach did not properly embrace them.
The developers then met with them twice where they had a “very lively and productive discussion” and took into account the comments of those who live in the townhomes, Gibbs said. They also amended the plan on the condition that the homeowners association accepts the new property.
“If the homeowners association for the 56 townhomes took the steps necessary to annex this property, meaning the 81 townhomes, into their HOA, my client would, at its expense, in lieu of having village green in the middle, in that location my client will construct a 1,500-square-foot community center,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs continued that he and the developer had been in touch with the homeowners association and its members had testified in support of the project.
The mayor and council voted to approve the plan. However, Councilmember Carl DeWalt (Ward 1) had some reluctance to approve it due to environmental concerns with the amount of construction already going on in the city.
“I think we are being overloaded with construction in the City of Laurel,” he said. “I think our rivers are being flooded with dirty stormwater, I think we’re losing way too many trees, I think the traffic is horrendous, and it’s just going to get worse.”
He added that the traffic poses a concern for pedestrian safety and mentioned how the lake was being polluted by stormwater and the debris in the lake when it was drained was “disgusting.”
“I will not vote for any more developments in the City of Laurel until we get a grip on some of the things we are putting in our city and it’s getting way too congested.”
Moe agreed to move forward with the construction of the townhomes only if the developer keeps up better communication with the surrounding community. He also responded to DeWalt’s comments stating that the lake was created as a stormwater management control pond and it doing what it is supposed to do.
He also mentioned the need to deal with the traffic, specifically on Terra Drive, especially with upcoming development there.
“The county has already approved development for that area. That’s going to be cut-through traffic, so we have no control over that.”
The mayor and council also approved the acquisition of seven new cars for the police department at a total of $366,351, and an ordinance to amend the city’s general operating budget and capital improvement program for fiscal year 2019.