Residents and property owners gave generally positive feedback to a new proposal for future growth along Branch Avenue in southern Prince George’s County, but said they want more flexibility in how they could redevelop their land.
Around 40 people attended a Nov. 5 Prince George’s County Council and county Planning Board hearing on the proposed Central Branch Avenue Corridor Revitalization Sector Plan.
County planners developed the strategy to reverse economic decline along Branch Avenue, from Temple Hills to Clinton, in part through the construction of apartment complexes and townhomes around planned transit sites, said Chidy Umeozulu, project manager for the community planning south division at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
If approved, the County Council would use the plan when implementing zoning changes and development incentives for the region over the next several years, he said.
Umeozulu said that current stagnation is due to too much retail compared with the surrounding residential population.
“The corridor has a better [residential-to-retail ratio] than Greenbelt or Laurel, but much worse than places like College Park, Silver Spring and Springfield [in Virginia],” he said.
Joseph Schiattareggia, who owns Roy’s Car Wash in Camp Springs and a neighboring strip mall, said he wanted to ensure he could redevelop his property as he saw fit. Under the plan, he would be restricted to building residences.
“Since last year, we’ve put a lot of money into our property, and we are 90 percent leased because of it,” Schiattareggia said. “...If we do ever want to redevelop, we’d like to see a better mixed-use type of retail.”
County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro said he thinks the council could find a way to zone Schiattareggia’s properties, and others like it, a hybrid of commercial and mixed use.
“I think we could come up with something like ‘commercial-residential,’” Franklin said. “It could be some sort of overlay, so that people could have some flexibility and retain their existing zoning [until they want to redevelop].”
Ariam Ferro of Temple Hills said he was concerned about new residential construction moving forward before needed transportation upgrades.
“I’m worried about how overdevelopment impinges on our area,” Ferro said. “...The plan relies on transit stations that aren’t guaranteed.”
Franklin said he thought it could be relatively simple to prevent development ramping up ahead of the needed infrastructure upgrades. Current planning process tests could also prevent development prior to needed transit upgrades, he said.
“We could try to take the issue into account through delayed zoning changes, or by setting up some trigger point at which the zoning changes take place,” Franklin said.
Officials are accepting written testimony on the plan until Nov. 20.
The planning board will consider the proposal in January 2013, while the County Council will pick it up in March 2013. Residents wishing to send in testimony can go to www.pgplanning.org/cba.html and click on “community feedback.”