Although some businesses close to the runways at Joint Base Andrews near Camp Springs are confident a series of growth restrictions proposed for their area will not affect them, other businesses that have been planning to expand fear they will be stuck with land that’s “worth nothing.”
Officials with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission said at a community meeting Monday at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex in Landover that their proposed Interim Land Use Controls are intended to discourage increased development, both residential and economic, from occurring in an area they say statistically has the greatest potential for crashes.
But some business owners are concerned that the new regulations will make it impossible to develop land they own and will devalue it.
Judith Ramsey, who owns two businesses, Short Stop Trucking and Strong Concrete, on Burton Drive in the “clear zone,” meaning within 3,000 feet of the end of the runways, said that about two years ago she and her husband purchased an undeveloped lot adjacent to their current business with the intention of expanding. Ramsey said she now is scrambling to try to obtain a permit to build on the lot before the law is expected to go into effect in June.
Ramsey said that although the government eventually may offer to buy her property, she fears that by that point it will be “worth nothing.”
“Once they put on restrictions, that devalues that lot, it devalues all of the lots,” Ramsey said. “So once it comes time to buy it, what will it be worth? I have four children that depend on the money I make working.”
Raymond Dubicki, project leader for M-NCPPC’s Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Study Program, which is spearheading the land-use controls, said the proposed regulations will cap housing and business density at current levels for the areas where statistically there is the “greatest potential” for base-related crashes — 3 miles to the north and south of the base’s two runways.
Although Dubicki said he had no numbers on residents and workers in the “accident potential zones,” about 11,000 people live in the areas where average noise from the base is 75 decibels or higher, and there are 41 properties in the clear zone closest to the runways.
Dubicki said the proposed regulations are an interim measure until longterm county restrictions on residential and commercial development in the area can be established within the next two years.
Although the final restrictions simply will cap growth and the heights of buildings and require noise attenuation for residences, Dubicki said that the Department of Defense’s ultimate goal will be to purchase land in the clear zone and relocate residents and businesses.
The proposed regulations, introduced to the Prince George’s County Council on March 13 and slated for a council Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee hearing on April 4, would prevent any new construction on vacant properties as well as any new residential units, cap current businesses at their current “gross floor area” and prevent any changes of property use that would put “more people at risk,” Dubicki said, such as converting a warehouse property into population centers like churches or theaters.
Dubicki said that Park and Planning’s committee focused on the land-use controls still is looking into the issue of properties in the clear zone for the final implementation of restrictions.
“The clear zone, and in particular the properties on Burton Lane, are a specialized concern,” Dubicki said. “As far as a specific impact on specific properties, we have not tested it yet.”
Ashbell Strong, who lives and owns Strong Trucks on Burton Lane, said that although he was concerned about the regulations prior to Monday’s meeting, he was confident he would be able to go forward with a planned garage repair and expansion. But he’s concerned he and his wife will have to move because of the noise attenuation issue.
“What they’re saying is after a couple of years we might not be able to live there anymore,” Strong said. “We’ll need new insulation to help with the noise.”
M.H. Jim Estepp, president of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable as well as the Andrews Business and Community Alliance, said his group has been heavily involved with the development of the new regulations, and that the proposal is “more of a preventative measure” and would not have a “major impact” on economic development in the area because no zoning restrictions are proposed.