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North Core Development: A Critical Look

North Core discussion, March 15, Spring Hill Lake

Last Thursday evening, I went to the Greenbelt North core development community meeting, where the north College Park and Greenbelt community discussed the development ideas presented by M-NCPPC staff.

Former College Park Council member and north College Park resident John Krouse was also there and weighed in later on the discussion the community had at the meeting. Please see his comments below.

Out of Scale Building Heights
The illustrative presentations of building height impacts on homes in North College Park was completely out scale, and thus very deceptive. The vantage point appeared to be from 40 or 50 feet above the street level of the neighborhood, and thus the apparant height of the buildings was minimized by 100% or 200%. I remember the balloon test. What was shown last night was not even close to the reality of 8 or 10 story buildings near the tracks… to say nothing of 12 or 18 story buildings as now approved by the legally-suspect zoning approvals.

The next time, M-NCPPC shows plans like this, I hope they have them certified by a professional architect, and include the actual heights of structures above sea level or some other benchmark. Then we’ll know the truth. But what we was shown last night was very far from the truth.

North – South Connector Road
M-NCPPC has also routinely chosen to forget or ignore the results of the SHA study regarding the orientation of the connector road from north to south, and the requirement of the approved conceptual plan for the north core to keep the connector road along the east edge of the Greenbelt Metro parking lot. The illustrative plans did not show the configuration favored by SHA, or of the approved plans.

Metro Parking Garage
I would also say that M-NCPPC has routinely minimized the bulk, visual impact, and probable sound-reflecting impacts of the proposed Metro parking garage on our communtity. They routinely show a smaller garage than would actually be constructed, though they always acknowlege that parking facilities should be spread over the site, and not packed against the railroad tracks. But that’s what Metro has consistently favored… and whether or not it makes sense from an urban planning perspective, that’s what M-NCPPC keeps delivering in its presentations.

Walking area
I also am annoyed by the insistence of M-NCPPC for promoting the importance of the 1/4 mile walking area for the tallest and densest structures. 1/4 mile is about 3 city blocks. Can’t people easily walk 3 city blocks? Don’t they already walk that distance now from the parking lot? It is absurb to suggest that the neighborhood should be forced to endure taller buildings at the railroad tracks because people “won’t” walk more than 1/4 mile. Of course they will. And they routinely do!

On FBI as a possible GSA tenant
I am also a dismayed that M-NCPPC continues to be coy in sector plan meetings about the “GSA tenant” when everyone who has been following the issue knows exactly what agency is in contention. It’s the FBI. Only the FBI has been discussed!

The relocation of the FBI and it’s possible impacts as been discussed in detail with Greenbelt City Council and elsewhere. And make no mistake.. the relocation of the FBI to Greenbelt Metro would have a huge impact on everything around us. But there was no real discussion of those impacts last night because “we really don’t know who the tenant would be”. I’m sorry, but that’s just not being honest.

On South Core developemnt
Lastly, I think it is very disingenuous for discussion of the South Core developments to be disallowed when the south core is just as much within the sector plan area as the north core, and the approvals that are (supposedly) legal for the south core are the same sort of approvals as the north core. They are both undeveloped properties within the sector plan area, and they should both be considered as part of the discussion.

On legal matters
And lest anyone forget this… the “legality” of most of the zoning approvals for the noth core area should be the subject of serious concern. Many of the prinicipals who negotiated the approvals are now convicted of bribery or extortion. Is it really fair to say that what was approved under those circumstances is still legally compelling, and not subject to reconsideration?

For representatives of M-NCPPC to seriously maintain that position is pretty much the same as saying that aperson who robbed the bank is entitled to keep the money, even though he goes to jail.

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