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Cafritz Developers Seeking Community Support

In the past week, the developers have sent new mailers, and its public relations firm made outreach calls to local residents.

As the Prince George's County Planning Board hearing draws near, Cafritz developers are employing new tactics to rally community support for the re-zoning of the property, so that they can build a Whole Foods Market just south of College Park.

Some Calvert Hills residents received calls last week from individuals claiming to be a part of a citizens’ group supporting the re-zoning of the property, according to College Park Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3). The northern boundary of the property runs along the neighborhood.

The developers’ attorney Chip Reed confirmed the calls actually came from a public relations firm employed by the development team. He said he was not aware the calls were being made until Stullich inquired about them Tuesday, Dec. 27.

“Those calls were the result of an overzealous person and the calls will cease,” Reed said. Stullich said residents have not reported calls since last Tuesday.

Robert Ramsey, who lives in Calvert Hills, was one resident who received a call.

"[The caller] was offensive and condescending and who she was representing was not at all clear,” he said.

She talked about the benefits of the development, implied there was a plot among some elected officials to block the development, and asked if he would be willing to call Stullich in support of the project, according to Ramsey. He said she hung up on him when he said he would not.

Another Calvert Hills resident, Douglas Shontz, said he received a similar phone call. Both Shontz and Ramsey said the woman claimed to be from a citizens’ group.

“We’re just anxious to get out there that the calls were made, but on further review, we thought them overzealous and they were ceased,” Reed said. He said he did not know who the Cafritz public relations firm is, and calls from Patch to the Cafritz family were not immediately returned.

Mailings

The developers also sent a direct mailing to residents of College Park, Riverdale Park and University Park last week that asked residents to sign and return a postcard in support of the development. Although Reed said he does not approve of the phone calls, the mailers represent a legitimate outreach effort.

“We feel that there is a lot of support out there, and we are looking for ways to tap into that public support,” Reed said.

Citizen Support, Opposition

Among that support is a petition signed by 114 residents in municipalities surrounding the property, submitted to the county’s planning board. “We believe that it would be a tremendous benefit to our community, providing retail opportunities that are currently lacking in an accessible location, as well as adding quality housing near transit hubs,” wrote Cynthia Finley in the letter. She’s a College Park resident who helped organize the petition.

Those opposed to the re-zoning are involved in a grassroots effort as well.

College Park resident Joseph Grikis is one of several area residents who wrote letters to the county planning board opposing the re-zoning. He said in an email he plans to spend this weekend petitioning for signatures and distributing information with his concerns about the development. He said this is part of an ongoing effort among College Park, University Park and Riverdale Park residents who oppose the project.

In addition to the Whole Foods Market, Cafritz developers hope to build almost 1,000 residential units, a fitness center and a hotel in Riverdale Park. The area is currently zoned for residential use only (R-55), and so .

Consensus

The developers have been meeting with area municipalities in recent weeks to reach a consensus about the proposed development.

"How College Park will vote on this depends largely on how the negotiations go," Stullich said.

The College Park City Council will discuss the Cafritz development at its 7 p.m. worksession Tuesday at , 4500 Knox Road. The Prince George’s County on Jan. 12.

Plum Smith January 05, 2012 at 04:49 AM
So I'm very curious to know whether there is a single person ANYWHERE who is actually gullible enough to believe that (a) the Cafritzes did not themselves endorse the creation of a fake grassroots group of local citizen "supporters" (making phone calls from a Delaware phone number) or (b) that the Cafritz's lead attorney on this project, Chip Reed, actually does not know the identity of the public relations firm working on this project. Finally, can anyone guess why the Cafritz family would not return phone calls about this? It is pretty humiliating for them that they have so little REAL community support that they feel a need to resort to dishonest scams to FABRICATE support. Will their high-level political connections in a county with a long tradition of letting developers call the shots, and their piles of cash, be enough to win approval for their appallingly ill conceived and ill-planned project in the face of massive community opposition? That remains to be seen, but what is clear is that, with many millions of dollars at stake, no one should be expecting much from the Cafritzes in the way of honesty, integrity, or ethical behavior.
Danny January 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
a bit histrionic, no? this may shock you, but many of us in the area don't consider this project to be "appallingly ill conceived and ill-planned." so if there is said to be "massive community opposition," then there is also "massive community support" (which is true of pretty much any development proposal). it seems the opponents (such as yourself) are louder and more aggressive than the proponents (which is also true of pretty much any development proposal).
CH Reader January 05, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Agreed Danny. I suspect if this project was to come up for popular vote (which it wont) that it would pass fairly easily.

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