The Prince George’s County Council voted 7 to 2 Monday to rezone 36 acres in Riverdale Park from residential to mixed-use commercial, clearing the way for a controversial development on the wooded land.
“We’re going to continue drafting our plans and consulting with citizen groups as we move into the permitting process,” said property owner Jane Cafritz, adding the project is expected to break ground in January 2014. “There will be fine-tuning to our conditions, because we have great lines of communication open with the community.”
The council, which sits as the District Council on zoning issues, approved the rezoning for the Cafritz property despite the plan’s conflict with the county’s 2004 master plan, which calls for the property to be developed as a residential area.
The proposed development, which still will be subject to a permit approval process by the county planning board following Monday’s vote, includes 200,000 square feet of retail development — including the county’s first Whole Foods — and 995 townhomes, senior housing units and apartments.
“The master plan is really clear on what this parcel is supposed to be,” said Susan Dorn, a lawyer and resident of University Park opposed to the project. Dorn added she and other citizens likely will appeal the decision.
Following a two-month delay, the council’s decision comes after nearly 30 hours of testimony from residents and lawyers both in favor of and opposed to the development.
Although Council Chair Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale voted for approval, she did so with reservations, she said.
“We often ask our residents to come out and get involved [in the master plan or sector plan process],” Harrison said. “We’re always accused of not enforcing or implementing the plans that we have, and the master plan governs this particular property.”
Residents voiced concern about traffic levels the development would bring to the largely residential area, the detrimental effects of clearing the woodland and the strain on infrastructure like schools and community services.
Councilman Eric Olson (Dist. 3) of College Park and Councilwoman Mary Lehman (Dist. 1) of Laurel voted against the measure.
“To believe that a gourmet grocery store can save Prince George’s County is folly,” Lehman said. “This proposal flies in the face of comprehensive planning and zoning and good land use.”
Project supporter Riverdale Park Councilman Jonathan Ebbeler (Ward 1) said the development will put the county on the map for economic development.
“Our municipality will work tirelessly with our neighbors...to allay the fears and bring a point of pride to the Route 1 corridor,” Ebbeler said.