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College Park Says 'No' to Cafritz Rezoning

The 6-2 decision by the College Park City Council follows votes by Riverdale Park and University Park to support the rezoning, which would allow developers to build a Whole Foods Market south of College Park.

When the Cafritz team goes before the Prince George's C, it will be without the backing of the College Park City Council.

In a 6-2 decision Tuesday night, the council voted to oppose the developers’ request to change 37.34 wooded acres south of College Park from single-family housing (R-55) to Mixed-Use Town Center. The rezoning would allow developers to construct a Whole Foods Market, fitness center, hotel, office space and about 1,000 residential units. 

The council of Riverdale Park voted the same night in unanimous support for the rezoning, and Monday, also in support of the rezoning. Both town councils voted for approval on the basis of many conditions regarding traffic, parking and other sticking points of the project.

Compromises

The three municipalities have been with the developers, with the goal of reaching a consensus on the many concerns surrounding the project. 

“I will agree the developer compromised. I think they made some important comprises,” said College Park Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3), who put forth the motion to oppose the rezoning. “The experience of working with the other towns … I think was a very positive experience.”

CSX Crossing

The conditions include provisions for one of the most contentious issues: a .

The developers must achieve certain check points in permitting, construction and financing for the bridge before building and occupancy permits may be issued for more than 100,000 square feet of retail, office and hotel space and 120 residential dwelling units. Building permits can be issued for only 382 residential units until the CSX crossing is complete.

This would allow the developers to complete the bridge by middle of 2016, Cafritz attorney Chip Reed said. The Whole Foods Market would be finished by January 2015.

The developers agreed to pay for half of the cost of the bridge, not exceeding $5 million. The rest of the bridge would be paid for through .

University Park Mayor John Tabori, who was at the meeting, said that he believed the requirements for the bridge construction are tight enough that the developers “aren’t going to be able to wiggle out of it.” 

Detailed Site Plan

The conditions also require that the developers provide a detailed site plan before major parts of the development, which would allow the councils to review the project at each stage.

“All municipalities in this area would have a voice and ability to know about and participate in the development should it go forward,” Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer said.

But Stullich wasn’t confident.

“I’m really distrustful about what will really happen at this site,” she said.

Stullich's Concerns

Stullich argued that the plan failed to meet criteria for MUTC zoning, it’s too far from Metro transit stations and the project is too dense. She warned against the potential traffic impact, and the amount of surface parking. There was also no guarantee that high-quality retailers will come to the site, she said.

Stullich has campaigned against a northern road , and the developers have vowed against such an access point. However, the county planning staff suggested in its staff report in December that such , which made Stullich wary.

“I appreciate the developers’ stance, but I do think there’s potential for future pressure along those lines,” Stullich said.

Divided Opinions

Fifteen College Park residents spoke at the meeting, all but two of them supporting Stullich’s motion to oppose the rezoning. One Riverdale Park resident spoke in favor of the developers, and one University Park resident spoke in opposition of the project.

New City Councilman Fazlul Kabir (Dist. 1) and Councilman Bob Catlin (Dist. 2) voted against Stullich’s motion, supporting the rezoning.

Kabir said that he originally opposed the rezoning until he learned that the conditions would require the developers to build the CSX crossing in the first phase of the development.

“This is what we’ve been asking them [for],” Kabir said.

Mayor Andrew Fellows said that if he had to vote, he would have supported the motion to deny the application.

The council's votes will serve as advisory roles for the Prince George’s County Planning Board, which will hear the rezoning case Thursday in Upper Marlboro. The county’s District Council will be the ultimate decider on the rezoning application.

Editor's Note: This article has been corrected. A previous version inaccurately described one of the concerns about the development included in Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich's motion. We regret the error.

Jenni Pompi (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Does anyone know how much of the Cafrtiz parcel lies in College Park? I'm hearing it's around 1/4 acre. Can anyone confirm that? Heroic effort seeing the meeting to the end, Shannon!
John R January 11, 2012 at 03:56 PM
@ Jenni -- That sounds about right. My understanding is that it is pretty much just the extension of the hiker/biker trail segment north from the "main" parcel of the development to the connection point just south of Albion Road in College Park. I'm not sure, but perhaps some of the drainage area in the northeast of the proposed development may also be in College Park.
Matthew Byrd January 12, 2012 at 02:10 PM
For those of you who support this project, consider the following: 37 acres of undisturbed woodland will be clear-cut prior to the start of this project. There is no guarantee that the CSX crossing will be built, and if it is, half the cost is likely to be absorbed by taxpayers. With a 25 year tax abatement for the developer, the project will be in a run-down condition before we ever see a cent of tax revenue from it (to compare, Laurel Mall opened in 1979, and the walkway collapsed in 2005, 26 years later). The jobs created would be low-wage affairs (grocery store employees and housekeeping staff) that would not greatly enhance our economy (though it does beat unemployment). And the traffic...oh, the traffic! Route 1 as the main entry/exit point, and no east/west access unless the CSX crossing happens. Finally, ponder this: What if all this re-zoning and clear-cutting happens, the buildings are built, then Whole Foods DOESN'T come to town? What are the other stores that might come in it's place? Would it make a good spot for a new K-Mart or Wal-Mart? Maybe it would. Once the property is re-zoned, there's really no telling what might go there. And no-one has seen any agreements signed by Whole Foods, to my knowledge. I hope the re-zoning application will be rejected by the Planning Board today. This is not the right project for this location, no matter what concessions the Cafritz developers may make.
Donald James January 12, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Can we say negative!
Danny January 12, 2012 at 04:33 PM
whole foods has a lease signed for the cafritz site. they have reported this lease in a corporate press release (which was subsequently reported extensively by local media) and on their website. a quick google search might help you here. (you may also want to google "kmart" + "sears" + "2012 store closings" to alleviate your fears of kmart opening a new location halfway between its greenbelt and hyattsville locations.) i would also imagine that there was "undisturbed woodland" on the site of your own residence before it was constructed. this is inside-the-beltway, reasonably transit-accessible land that is ripe for development. we are not talking about the amazonian rainforest or a national/state/county park.
Matthew Byrd January 12, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Paragraph 1 represents the best-case scenario, if everything goes according to the plan. Perhaps I should have a put a smiley-face after it. Paragraph 2 only touches on the possibility that Whole Foods could walk away from this, at some point. If something other than a Whole Foods went in at that location, would the project still have the support it's getting from the community? What if a Food Lion or a Safeway goes in there, instead? To be clear, I'm not against developing the land. But I believe it should be developed in-line with its current R-55 zoning. And if a Whole Foods does go in there, I'm not certain it should be accompanied by 1000 new residents, a strip mall, and a hotel.
Danny January 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
the "best-case" scenario is that the development gets run down like laurel mall? what about the possibility that the development succeeds and looks like the mall in columbia or westfield montgomery (both of which are older than laurel mall and have had zero ramp collapses) in 25 years? and, if you want to play the "what if?" game, what if whole foods indeed pulls out of its lease and instead we get a fresh market, or maybe a crate & barrel? i am focusing on the more likely outcome that the only retailer with a signed lease is the retailer that will actually anchor the development.

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