Cafritz Hearing is Adjourned

Residents, officials and attorneys provided testimony and closing arguments at the sixth and final district council hearing for Cafritz.

5:20 p.m.: Hearing is Adjourned

Seven hours after it began today, the hearing before the Prince George's County District Council is adjourned--without a continuance.

Before Harrison dropped the gavel, People's Counsel Stan Brown provided a closing argument. He reminded listeners that his role does not involve supporting one side or the other. Among his points:

He noted that the planning board took more than its allowable 105 days to submit a recommendation to the district council, which "is not fatal to this application, but it is there," he said.

He also said that the planning board's recommendation came with conditions rather than the allowable modifications.

"One could argue the planning board decision is erroneous because it allows for conditions," he said.

5:10 p.m.: Grow Tomatoes

Resident Joe Kelly takes the mic again. He says he wasn't prepared to make a final statement, but the attorney's asked him to.

"If you really want an organic tomato, grow one, and then teach someone younger than yourself how to grow one for themselves. That's progress, and to progress, I say 'Yes, please.'"

4:55 p.m.: Planning Board Recommendation

College Park Attorney Robert Manzi takes jabs at the recommendation from the Prince George's County Planning Board.

First, the planning board went beyond the 105-day requirement to submit its recommendation to the Prince George's County District Council, he says.

Second, the applicant presented new evidence before the district council, evidence that the planning board was not able to consider for its recommendation, Manzi says.

Third, the planning board approved the application with conditions rather than modifications, he says.

4:40 p.m.: Cafritz Attorney Speaks

Attorney Chris Hatcher, representing Cafritz, says that the rezoning proposal meets all the criteria of the M-UTC zone. He mentions a letter from CSX approving a crossing, but the People's Counsel Stan Brown objects, arguing that the letter did not include approval for the crossing. Hatcher continues speaking without referring to CSX again. He moves on to speak about the potential economic impact of the development.

"These are real dollars and real jobs in these times," he says.

Riverdale Park Town Attorney Fred Sussman speaks next.

4:33 p.m.: More on Tree Preservation

The developers are required to make every effort to maintain 10 percent of tree canopy, but it doesn’t have to be trees already there, Shoulars explains. “If they can’t. They would have to justify why they can’t.”

Olson tells Harrison that he has no one else to call to the stand.

Then--"Not at this time," he adds.

"I'm going to turn my mic off for a second," Harrison jokes.

Final statements now begin.

4:26 p.m.: Tree Preservation

In the Prince George's County Planning staff report and conditions for rezoning, the developer is required to make every effort to meet the 10 percent tree canopy coverage requirement through the provision of existing mature woodland, specimen trees and other large existing trees, and landscaping. Every effort shall also be made to preserve the healthiest trees on-site, according to the document.

"What does 'every effort' really mean,” Olson asks of Environmental Planning Acting Supervisor Katina Shoulars.

"The applicant should exhaust all efforts to preserve the healthiest trees on site," Shoulars says.

4:03 p.m.: Traffic Study

Mokhtari is cross examined by several. People's Counsel Stan Brown confirms with him that a traiffic study is not a required part of the rezoning approval.

Mokhtari says that he estimates the cost of the proposed vehicular and pedestrian bridge will be in the neighborhood of $20 million.

3:37 p.m.: Transportation

County Councilman Eric Olson, whose District 3 includes the Cafritz property, calls to the podium Faramarz Mokhtari of the Transportation Planning Section.

3:35 p.m.: Nevermind

People's Sounsel Stan Brown decides it's not necessary to call Jane Cafritz to the stand.

3:23 p.m.: 5-Minute Recess, Then Jane Cafritz

People's Sounsel Stan Brown calls Jane Cafritz to speak, but council decides to take a five minute break first.

2:54 p.m.: 'Mischaracterization'

Attorney Jayson Amster asks University Park Mayor John Tabori if he had said publicly "that this application submitted by the applicant was going to be approved and that [University Park] needed to get onboard in order to get the conditions in which you feel were so important?"

Tabori said Amster was mischaracterizing his statement.

2:42 p.m.: Tabori

Mayor John Tabori of University Park has been testifying and answering questions for the last 40 minutes.

He just listed some of the that would require the developers to achieve certain stages of the vehicular and pedestrian bridge before other parts of the project can move forward. This includes, he said: At the time of preliminary planning, the developers must show the exact location for the bridge; have permission from CSX for the desired site and plan; meet necessary agreements with the University of Maryland for the bridge to land on its property; and secure the funding for the bridge, including performance bonds.

1:54 p.m.: We're Back

Hope you're done with lunch. Council is back in session.

1:05 p.m.: Recess

The council is recessing for 30 minutes. Harrison says there are a few more testimonies left to hear.

Approximately 25 people have testified today opposed to the Cafritz project. About six have testified in favor of the development.

12:55 p.m.: 'Do the Right Thing'

University Park's Jayson Amster says that even those who are for the project are not in support of many of the impacts he predicts resulting from the Cafritz development: overcrowding at schools; loss of tree canopy; increased traffic, etc.

"Come and look at this property. Look at this 37-acre cul-de-sac and do the right thing," he urges the council. "The Cafritzes will return wth a plan that is more reasonable," Amster said.

12:44 p.m.: Susan Dorn Takes the Stand

PowerPoint ready, University Park resident takes the stand. She displays photos of the existing Riverdale Park historic town center.

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12:38 a.m.: Not the Right Location for A Grocery Store

A University of Maryland student says she is opposed to the Cafritz development, even though the area needs a grocery store.

"I don’t think this is the right place," she says.

She said it's too far from the university to walk for groceries, and she suggests the site or the .

"I think development of the Cafritz property would hamper development in College Park," she said.

12:31 p.m.: Thanks, but No Thanks

Riverdale Park resident Joe Kelly says he's been following this issue since 2007.

He's door knocked through his and surrounding neighborhoods, and asked the residents to write down their opinions about the Cafritz project. He sets two stacks of those written opinions on top of the podium.

Kelly says he did meet people who support the development, but—“If I was a politician and I was running on the 'No Thanks' ticket, I would win by a landslide," he says.

12:23 p.m.: Approval Would be 'Shortsighted'

College Park resident Leo Sharper tells the council that if it approves the rezoning application, he believes it would be an illegal, unwise, shortsighted move and embarrassing for Prince George's County.

12:14 p.m.: Keeping Faculty Close

Jordan Boyd-Graber testifies in favor of Cafritz.

"We’re trying to get faculty to live in College Park," the assistant processor says. “College Park really falls short. It lacks many of the facilities they would really like to see. I think this development could be a step in the right direction,” he says.

Garber is the fifth citizen to speak in favor of the application, while about a dozen—including two University Park officials—have testified against it.

12:07 p.m.: Quality of Life

A 20-year University Park resident is concerned about the impact that the Cafritz project could have on her quality of life living on Van Buren Street.

“I feel that the traffic is not sustainable. I feel that the conditions that we would be forced to accept was not what we expected when we invested in our homes,” she said.

11:57 a.m.: Why Not Somewhere Else?

Eve Muller of College Park speaks out against the Cafritz proposal, citing the scale and surface parking among the reasons. She says she is concerned the new retail in the project would pull business away from existing retail and exacerbate urban blight along the corridor.

Although she supports a quality grocer in the area, "Why not build it in one of the existing spaces?" she asks.

Four citizens have testified in favor of the rezoning today. Seven citizens and two officials have testified against it.

11:50 a.m.: Delayed

The pace is delayed in cross-examination about hearing procedures and exhibits.

11:35 a.m.: StopCafritz

Randy Davis, a University Park resident provides testimony, opposed to the rezoning application. She says the project is "hemmed in" on three sides, and is not physically or visually connected with surrounding communities.

"You are the experts on community," she says, speaking directly to the District Council. "Calling something a Mixed-Use Town Center doesn’t make it so. This is anything but a Mixed-Use Town Center."

Davis is one of the creators of StopCafritz.org, .

11:21: Enhancing Route 1

Richard Parsons of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, which focuses on regional transportation issues, speaks on behalf of himself in favor of the project.

He describes the proposal as a transit-oriented development, and he thinks that the project can enhance the U.S. Route 1 corridor and begin the process of a more transit-oriented community.

He is asked who asked him to speak today.

"I was contacted by several people on my board actually ... I was asked  through my organization to look at this."

11:14 p.m.: 3-3

So far, three testifiers have spoken in favor of the application (all non-officials) and three have spoken against the application (two officials).

11:03 a.m.: In Favor Out of Fear

University Park Councilman David Brosch, who also voted against the rezoning, provides testimony. He says he has been trained as an urban planner.

He says that he thinks some of his fellow councilmembers voted in favor of the rezoning out of fear that, if the project went forward, University Park would be left out of the planning process.

College Park resident David Dorsch takes the podium next. He speaks in favor of constructing the proposed mixed-use project on the Cafritz property.

“It’s time to develop it to its highest potential,” he says. He said he thinks it's important that the proposed vehicular and pedestrian bridge be built early in the project timeline, but he's not concerned about the traffic impact on U.S. Route 1, he says. Maybe the project will help the area receive the support it needs to improve the U.S. Route 1 infrastructure, he suggests.

Two Riverdale Park residents follow up with more support for the rezoning application.

10:53 a.m.: 'Covenanted to Death'

Gekas said that he became increasingly concerned about the Cafritz proposal when the applicants switched the rezoning request from M-U-I to M-UTC, and through the development of the conditions.

"It's not being motified; it's being covenanted to death," he said.

10:45 a.m.: Testimony Underway

Harrison said that several residents have signed up to provide testimony, as well as some elected officials.

She reminds those who plan to testify to abide by the time limit (three minutes for residents and five for elected officials), and to remember that “This is not a trial. It is an evidenciary hearing using administrative procedings.”

University Park Councilman James Charles Gekas is the first to speak. He was one of three members of the council there to vote against the rezoning application. (University Park Council ultimately voted to support the application 4-3.)

10:41 a.m.: We Begin

Chair Andrea Harrison calls the hearing to order.

Original Post

Could the end be in sight?

Today at 10 a.m., the Prince George's County District Council is set to resume its hearing on the Cafritz rezoning application in Upper Marlboro. From early indications—as well as —it may be the final day of the drawn-out proceedings.

On Monday, council members, attorneys, and audience members as the review process entered a fifth day.

Traffic engineer Anne M. Randall, Riverdale Park Councilman Alan Thompson, Riverdale Park Town Administrator Sarah Imhulse, and College Park Planning Director Terry Schum were among the notable speakers at the session.

As Monday's proceedings drew to a close, it became clear that the the applicant's attorneys, Riverdale Park counsel Frederick Sussman, and College Park counsel Robert Manzi had all exhausted their witness lists. 

Though University Park Mayor John Tabori and several other neighbors are still expected to speak, Harrison indicated that closing statements would likely be heard from each side on Friday.

"I am hoping we can complete this on Friday, and I am hoping that we don't have to go very late," she said Monday.

The Cafritz family is seeking to have its 37-acre parcel on the north end of Riverdale Park rezoned from single-family detached residential (R-55) to mixed-use town center (M-UTC), easing the way for the construction of more than 900 units of housing, a 35,000-square foot Whole Foods, a 120-room hotel, and additional office and retail space.

Supporters contend that the project will spur economic growth and bring a desirable mix of retail and residential development to the area—. Critics charge that the plan would impose extreme fiscal, environmental, and traffic pressure on the surrounding communities.

Previous District Council coverage:

  • April 11: 
  • April 13: 
  • April 30: 
  • May 4: 
  • May 7: 

Note: Riverdale Park-University Park editor John Davisson is away until May 21, but College Park editor Shannon Hoffman will post live updates on the Cafritz hearing throughout Friday's proceedings. Please send any related tips, comments, and questions to shannon.hoffman@patch.com.

Joseph Grikis May 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM
John ande Shannon, Thank you for your continued coverage of the Cafritz hearing. While it would have been nice to have more discussion of the individual statements, both for and against, I realize you were working on the fly and likely had other assignments during the long days of testimony. Also, I disagree with Mr. Arnold's remark on recognizing the relative number of community speakers for and against the development. When day after day of hearings, up to 80% of the area residents testify against the development, it is noteworthy,
Nick May 14, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Because the hearings are during the day, during business hours, I was only able to watch the hearings over the internet. That being said, all we can really say is that those who are unemployed or underemployed appear to be opposed to the Cafritz development. Considering how many jobs will be created by the development, there is some irony there.
Danny May 14, 2012 at 01:18 PM
nick, i would have to disagree that it is mostly the unemployed who oppose the project. what i have observed is alarming selfishness and provincialism on the part of many of the opponents -- that is to say, since they already have jobs, they couldn't care less about creating jobs for others. they only care about their own (predominantly single-occupant-vehicle) commutes, about not having to wait through two traffic light cycles during rush hour at routes 1 and 410 (god forbid!). if the NIMBY elite want to go to whole foods and nice restaurants (other than BB&P), they'll darn well hop in their cars (SUVs?) and clog up traffic on takoma park's local streets to get to silver spring. but don't anyone else dare get on queens chapel road in university park -- that's for locals only, thank you very much!
Nick May 14, 2012 at 01:31 PM
To clarify my point, I included the retired among those who are unemployed or underemployed. But Danny might be right.
mike arnold May 14, 2012 at 04:45 PM
If 80% of the area residents testified as against the zoning change, that would be noteworthy! Even if it is an 80-20 split as to those who testified, it does not represent a majority opinion of the surrounding communities, only of those who showed up to the hearing. As was pointed out in the hearing numerous times, no one has a proxy to speak for others at a public hearing. In most development hearings the vast majority of testifiers are in dissent, thus the concept of the "vocal minority" (and conversely the "silent majority"). I stand by my statement, the content of those citizen comments (both for and against) is far more illustrative of the broad spectrum of concern both positive and negative for this projects suitability and could have been better encapsulated.


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