Last night the Council voted on 2 important development issues – Book Exchange development in College Park and Cafritz development in Riverdale Park. Council rejected both issues with 8-0 and 6-2 votes. I voted against Book Exchange development, however supported Cafritz one; I was one of two councilmembers who cast their dissenting votes; Bob Catlin (District 2) being the other one. I explained my reasons why voted this way in my comments last night, however in case you missed, here goes my explanation.
My main reason to vote against the Book Exchange development was compliance with Route 1 Sector Plan, which states that any structure facing a residential neighborhood (or an area zoned with R55 zoning) must be 2 to 3 stories high. The developer, in this case, made the design facing Yale Avenue 6 stories high. However after the Planning board rejected the plan, they scaled back to 4 stories. Unfortunately, even though it’s an improvement, the council was looking more for a compliance. I understand residents in north College Park was in favor of the concept of the development, however I also felt the need to make sure that the sector plan requirements are complied accurately.
On Cafritz, I struggled to cast my NO vote opposing the rezoning application. For all along, I was very concerned about the traffic that this development would generate and its impact to College Park residents. This development is not in College Park and thus from the beginning of the project, the extra traffic on Route1 was the single most important issue for College Park residents. The developers offered to build a bridge on the CSX track on the east side of the development to ease the traffic impact on Route1. Unfortunately, in the beginning they wanted to build the bridge in the second phase of the development, however the Council wanted them to build it in the first phase.
A long phase of negotiation went after that, which involved a continuance approval from the Planning Board. Very recently, the developer agreed to build the bridge in the first phase of development. An agreement (covenant) was made with the Town of University Park that details the funding and timeline in this project. I guess this agreement was the main reason why I changed my mind to vote against the disapproval of rezoning application.
I also had some concerns about the MUTC zoning that the applicant was applying for this development. MUTC is a modern zoning tool, that College Park never used before, so I was not sure if the scope of residents’ participation in this process. But I checked with our planning staff to find that MUTC does have a provision where residents can be part of it.
I am extremely happy to see so many residents showing interest in the development . I also thank Council member Stullich for the countless number of hours she has spent in this process. Even though I did not support her proposal, I hope she and the residents will stay engaged regardless of the outcome of this zoning process.