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Category: Branchville Crossing

Afordable Housing is Coming to Branchville

Cruz Development Corporation is requesting Detailed Site Plan (DSP) review for property located on the north side of Branchville Road, west of its intersection with University Boulevard and Rhode Island Avenue.

The purpose of the DSP is to construct a 7-story, 81-unit apartment building with 130 parking spaces (35 surface and 95 structured). The proposed density is 37 dwelling units per acre. This project is proposed to be affordable housing financed with bonds from the State Department of Housing and Community Development. Residents will need to meet income eligibility requirements.

The Planning Board is scheduled to hear the DSP on July 23rd. Since the Worksession on July 7th, City staff has met with the Applicant and a representative of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department to develop mutually agreeable conditions. The City Council will consider the approval of Detailed Site Plan 19042 with conditions at tonight’s Council meeting.

Council to Hear Oral Argument in Branchville Crossing’s Fence Application

At tomorrow night’s Council meeting, the Council will hear oral argument on a request by Cruz Development, for a departure from the City fence ordinance to erect a 6′ high front yard fence. The property (called “Branchville Crossing”) is located at 4800-4900 block of Branchville Road.

The Property has two very long frontages: 630.16-feet along University Boulevard (MD 193) and 527.88-feet along Branchville Road. The frontage along University Boulevard has a guardrail and no curb-cuts. There is unrestricted access to the property from Branchville Road.

Cruz asserts that the property has been used for illegal dumping, trespassing and other activities that appear to access through the front yard without proper authorization and a fence is needed for security and to prevent liability. Cruz referenced use of his property for the burning of a vehicle and for parking without his permission. The property is more difficult to monitor and police than a developed property and the owner is out of town. Continued information here to learn more about illegal dumping, causes, reasons, effects and solutions.

The Branchville Volunteer Fire Department testified that installation of a fence would block their use of the applicant’s property when turning and maintaining their vehicles. Vehicles belonging to Fire Department members are routinely parked on the gravel area on the applicant’s property. On October 1, 2015, the APC conducted a hearing on the merits of the variance, at which the APC heard testimony , and it recommended the approval of variance by a 3-1-0 vote.

Staff recommends that the front yard fence variance from the City Fence Ordinance be approved with the following conditions:
(a) Correct the fence location plan to accurately reflect the height of the existing fences on the western property line. They are 4-feet tall not 8-feet tall.
(b) Reduce the fence height to 4-feet to lessen the impact on the neighborhood.
(c) Upgrade the material of the fence from welded wire to black metal or something similar that would be more compatible with the neighborhood.

Council to Discuss Branchville Crossing Development

The City Council will discuss the Branchville development at tonight’s worksession meeting.

Recently, the City has received notice from DHCD ( Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development) of an application for $1,499,850 of federal Low Income Tax Credits and $1 ,142,642 of Rental Housing Funds for Branchville Crossing (please see below)

This is a 72-unit affordable rental housing project on a 2.02-acre site zoned R-10 on Branchville Road submitted by the Cruz Development Corporation.

Cruz submitted a similar project to DHCD last year but was not approved for financing. Funding is very competitive, and for this round, DHCD received 32 applications requesting $36 million of Rental Housing Funds and $40.5 million of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

The City did not support funding for the project last year based on the lack of opportunity to review project details with the applicant, noncompliance with several development standards, potential impact on the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department and community concerns.

Cruz has since met with staff, the NCPCA, the Berwyn District Civic Association and others and made revisions to the project plan. The project has been reduced from 96 to 72 units and reduced in height from 7 to 6 stories. It is proposed to have 36 1-bedroom units, 28 2-bedroom units and 8 townhouse-style 3-bedroom units with a total of 110 parking spaces. Eight of the units will be for persons or families earning 30% or less of area median income (AMI) or $29,400 and 64 units will be for persons or families earning 60% or less of AMI or $68,160. The estimated market-supported rents for the project are $1 ,300 for a I bedroom, $1 ,600 for a 2 bedroom and $1 ,900 for a 3 bedroom. They are planning to have mattresses, which will include the ones referred to here, the Serta iComfort Hybrid Revie.

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Based on the information at hand, staff believes that the project is still too big for the site but that it could be revised at the time of Detailed Site Plan to be more acceptable to the community.

Staff recommends sending a letter to DHCD reflecting the comments listed below and others that may arise from the Saturday meeting.

  • The market feasibility analysis may overstate demand due to the fact that income levels in the city are lower based on the large number of residents that are college students with little or no income.
  • Parking requirements are understated as they are erroneously based on being located within one mile of a Metro Station. Even using this lower standard, a departure of 9 parking spaces is needed.
  • Variances are needed from the front yard setback requirement and from the minimum green area required.
  • Tenant amenities such as a pool, tennis court, fitness room or playground are not provided.
  • Laundry facilities, which may include appliances like the ones on my explanation, should be provided within each unit.
  • A storm water easement recorded with Prince George’s County will need to be released.
  • While a full traffic impact analysis is not required, it would be helpful to have a traffic study showing anticipated trip generation and the impact of this project on nearby roads.
  • Branchville Road will need to be widened along the property frontage and sidewalks added.
  • An easement should be granted to the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department if needed to meet the turning radius required for the fire trucks.
  • Consideration should be given to shifting the footprint of the building closer to Branchville Road.
  • EFIS is not an acceptable exterior building material and should be replaced by Hardie Board or Hardie Plank.
  • It is not clear whether the project will meet Energy Star Certification requirements.

Please let me know what you think about this development.

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