BOWIE — The Bowie City Council assembled for its first meeting of the year to discuss several important items, with a particular focus on the proposal of the Pecan Ridge Preliminary Plan of Subdivision and a thorough presentation of the council budget guidance for fiscal year 2021.
At the start of the meeting, held on the evening of Jan. 6 at Bowie City Hall, was a minor adjustment to the agenda for the night – the postponement of the council resolution regarding how council members may become eligible to participate in the group health care plan that is provided to city employees.
During the citizen participation portion of the evening, Gary Allen, the chairman of the Environmental Advisory Committee, urged council members to consider supporting the resolution authorizing the celebration on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in Bowie. Allen’s remarks were centered around the actions that should be taken to combat climate change.
“Resolutions like this one, just like the resolutions that citizens make at this particular point in time each year with new year’s resolutions seems a fitting time to reflect upon the future,” Allen said, also naming a number of sustainable practices that can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
“Now we know if we don’t do anything, some bad things are going to happen. Some bad things are already happening. We already acknowledge that the temperature is rising, the weather is getting worse, and, if you read today’s paper, Australia is burning.
“Those kinds of things can only be changed if each of us, including this community, make a small commitment to change our lifestyle in the coming year.”
Other community members offered suggestions as the budget work session approaches, including cuts on tax increases, increasing emergency services for the local fire department and increased funding for youth and teen programs to reduce disorderly activities by local youth such as loitering, littering and disturbances.
Before the city manager’s report and going through the consent agenda, the council unanimously approved the appointments of Abigail Muscato to the Community Outreach Committee, and Reyniak Richards and Machia Desmond to the Education Committee, all of which will be two-year terms.
When it was his time to report, City Manager Alfred D. Lott announced that city staff has begun budget preparation for fiscal year 2021 and that the review process will run from late January through February.
The first item that occupied a bulk of the new business segment of the session was a discussion about Pecan Ridge (labeled Preliminary Plan No. 4-19003), a project that requests the city’s approval recommendation for a subdivision containing 80 single-family detached lots spread over 42 acres of land designated a rural-residential or ‘R-R’ located at the end of Lloyd Station Road. The contract purchaser of the property is Caruso Homes.
Initial concerns surrounding the proposed project include the loss of green space, the probable impact on the local schools and their problems of overcrowding, the need to implement traffic mitigation measures, and what long-term benefit it would have for the citizens of Bowie.
Edward Gibbs, an attorney representing Caruso Homes, had the floor for 10 minutes. He noted the “significance of the Pecan (Ridge) growth” in addition to the growth of the pecan trees as reasons that Caruso is pursuing the subject property.
In contrast to the myriad of concerns expressed by community members and council members, Gibbs that after he and others working with him submitted a traffic impact analysis regarding the traffic effects, the housing developments would have, it has been concluded that “we will not have an adverse impact on transportation links and roadways in our study area.”
Also, the Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission has recommended approval of the preliminary subdivision plan, Gibbs said.
Shortly after Gibbs took his seat, Bruce Milam – a 35-year resident of Bowie – stepped up to the podium to express disagreement with the proposal and Gibbs’ report.
“The major concern I have with the development has to do with the traffic. And of course, the best solution to fix this…would be a traffic circle. That would allow a safe flow, no back-ups on (Route) 197, and that would be the perfect way to have a good flow,” said Milam, who lives on Lloyd Station Road adjacent to the proposed Pecan Ridge development site.
“What I would propose is that they leave the existing entrance on Normal School (Road), leave the existing exits from Normal School (Road), leave the existing entrance from (Route) 564, and then just add a safe entrance from the (Route) 197 direction.”
Other community members shared similar sentiments with Milam, urging the council not to annex the Pecan Ridge property into the city.
Councilmembers Roxy Ndebumadu and Dufour Woolfley as well as Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo, asked Gibbs questions regarding Pecan Ridge, the horticultural value of the property and the conclusions produced from the traffic impact analysis.
Ultimately, the council unanimously rejected the request for the preliminary plan of subdivision for the proposed Pecan Ridge project, receiving applause from the crowd after the vote.
Also taking up a considerable portion of the meeting was a lengthy presentation detailing the budget guidance for FY2021 by the Bowie Finance Department.
Finance Director Byron Matthews led the presentation, which provided trend information and significant themes for the upcoming fiscal year 2021 budget, according to the agenda. According to the presentation, the general fund expenditures from last year were $51,432,284.
The action items outlined in Matthews’ presentation were as follows: establish a framework for the FY2021 budget, set priorities, and parameters, emphasize the importance of using the Capital Improvement Program as a strategic financial planning tool, consideration of long term recurring operating costs when adding capital projects and consideration of debt affordability and consider increasing the property tax rate.
Major capital projects from fiscal years 2021 to 2025 include stormwater management projects ($5 million), Allen Pond Park improvements ($6.6 million), facility preventive maintenance ($2.6 million), water storage tanks ($1 million), water distribution system ($8.1 million), Public Works main facility ($900,000) and maintenance of the Kenhill Center ($604,000).
Staff recommendations for FY2021 will focus on essential core services, fund new projects with “pay-as-you-go” funding, avoid authorizing new projects based on disproportionate state or federal grants, deferral of non-critical capital projects, consider the long-term financial impact of current decisions and review user fees and charges and adjust accordingly, according to the presentation.
The city hopes to maintain a constant property tax rate and anticipates an expenditure growth from 5% to 7%, concluded Matthews.
Following brief resolutions concerning the settlement of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the celebration of Earth Year in Bowie, the meeting adjourned.
The Bowie City Council will convene for its next legislative session on Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.