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College Park City Council Disapproves Cafritz Rezoning

Latest Cafritz site design

College Park City Council last night supported a motion to disapprove the preliminary plan application for rezoning of the Cafritz development. The Council vote went (5-2-1), Council member Catlin and Dennis opposed the motion. I abstained.

A motion by District 3 Council member Stephanie Stullich asked to disapprove the rezoning. Stullich’s motion includes several reasons for disapproval. The developer has not provided critical information in regards to the plan until the last minutes. For the same reason, The Historic Preservation Commission did not go through adequate review. UMd’s letter was also not strong enough to support the plan. Additionally, the financing plan to build the project was not detailed enough.

The Council however asked the planning board to support our planning staff’s recommended conditions, if the plan goes ahead.

Earlier, The University Park Town Council unanimously disapproved the plan last Monday. The Reiverdale Park Town Council, on the other hand voted to support it on a special meeting on Saturday.

The County’s Planning Board will take its position tomorrow on the rezoning application. The board’s staff have already recommended to approve the rezoning application.

Road Bridge Issue Adds Uncertainty to Cafritz Development

Cafritz project attorney Chip Reed came to last Tuesday night’s Council meeting to announce that they failed to receive support from the American Center for Physics on a proposed overpass before today’s County Planning Board meeting. The development of the bridge is crucial for the approval of the Cafritz project.

The proposed bridge was to be built on a location that is owned by American Center of Physics. ACP sent a letter to the mayors of College Park, University Park and Riverdale Park stating that it needs more time to study the feasibility of the proposed bridge on its property. Please see a copy of that letter below. See more about the news here on the Washington Post and on the Patch.

American Center for Physics Letter

College Park Votes Not to Appeal Cafritz Plan

In a dramatic vote, College Park City Council decided not to appeal Cafritz development plan.

The Council vote was 4-4, with Mayor Fellows voting against it. Council members Stullich, Day, Wojahn and Dennis voted to support the appeal motion, whereas Council members Afzali, Kabir, Catlin and Mitchell voted against the motion.

The deadline to appeal the case is Friday. Even the City has decided not to proceed with the appeal case, a group of residents can still appeal against the Cafritz plan.

Should We Appeal Cafritz Decision?

Cafritz development at Riverdale Park

In tomorrow’s regular meeting, the Council will vote on whether to appeal to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court of the final decision of the District Council to approve Zoning Map Amendment A-1 0018 for the Cafritz property development.

On July 12, 2012, the District Council took final action on this case and on July 18, 2012 mailed the written order of the Council to all persons of record. The deadline for appealing the decision is August 17, 2012.

The approved project includes the rezoning of 35.71 acres of property in the Town of Riverdale Park from R-55 (single-family residential) to M-U-T-C (MixedUse-Town Center) and amends the 2004 Approved Town of Riverdale Park Mixed-Use Town Center Zone Development Plan. The project, as approved, includes up to 1,915,320 million square feet of mixed-use development including retail, office, residential and hotel.

While good arguments could be made in regards to a few legal and technical issues in this case, the ultimate outcome may include a remand back to the District Council and then to the Planning Board at which time they would correct all of the defects. Based on the original 7-2 votes, it is likely that the project would again be approved. Also, the delay may cause the loss of the Whole Foods, something many residents may not prefer.

That said, please let me know how we should vote.

Cafritz Plan Passes 7-2

The county council voted 7-2 last night in favor of a rezoning request that would allow for the market to be built as part of a mixed-use development, including town houses, office space and retail, in Riverdale Park. Council member Eric Olson and Mary Lehman opposed the rezoning.

Cafritz Hearing Ends Without a Vote

After six days of testimonies and cross examinations, Prince George’s County District Council finally adjourned the public hearing yesterday. It’s unclear when the Council will finally vote on the zoning application. Thanks to NCP resident Mathew Byrd for the 2 part videos on yesterday’s hearing.

Planning Board Approves Cafritz Project

Cafritz development at Riverdale Park

The Planning Board yesterday approved the Cafritz development in a 4-0 votes.

The decision was handed after 15 hours of deliberations from residents and elected officials.

The approval came with a number of conditions, that included a January 25 consensus conditions, plus a few new ones added yesterday.

Earlier, the towns of Riverdale Park and University Park approved the project. The City of College Park did not.

The case now goes to District council, whee the county council members will decide the final fate of the project.

The Patch ran a minute by minute accounts of yesterday’s hearing, which can be found here.

My Votes Last Night: Book Exchange 0, Cafritz 1

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.

Please read more about last night’s meeting here on the Patch and here on the RethinkCollegePark.

Council to Vote on Cafritz Development Tomorrow

Cafritz Development

Tomorrow is the first regular council session of the year. Soon after the council completes the consent agenda items, it will go to work session to discuss two important development issues – Book Exchange and Cafriz development (see details below). After then it will reconvene to the regular session where it will vote on these two issues. We’re also expecting public comments during the discussion of these two agenda items. In anticipation of lengthy discussion, tomorrow night’s session will start at 7pm instead of 8pm.

I will write about my thoughts on Book Exchange development tomorrow, but here is what I’ve so far on Cafritz development.

The Planning Board will be having a hearing this Thursday on Cafritz Development in Riverdale Park, thus the Council will have to take a position on this. That may change if the developer asks for another continuance, which is extremely unlikely.

Though the development is in Riverdale Park, it affects three neighboring cities / towns – College Park, University Park and Hyattsville. All four cities have been meeting with the developer to resolve a few key important issues surrounding this development.

One major issue remains to be resolved is the building of the CSX track on the east side of the development. Everyone agrees this crossing will ease the traffic impact on Route 1. The traffic issue is the main one for residents in College Park. The developer is saying this will be built in the second phase of the development. The cities and towns are still negotiating to sort out the details about the schedule of this development.

There have also been concerns about the zoning tool to be used in this development. The developer has applied for MUTC zoning (Mixed Use Town Center) which would allow them to develop the area with a mix of residential, office complex and shopping center that the current R-55 residential zoning does not allow. Towns are also negotiating the provisions of residents’ input in the process, many think it’s somewhat limited compared to the traditional zoning tools, such as MUI / MXT.

In addition to the CSX track and the MUTC zoning tool, four cities and the developer are also negotiating on the LEED standard (Green building) of the development.

If the negotiations succeed, the Council will most likely consider a taking a position of support with conditions.

Please let me know what you think on this development and how the council should vote.

Cafritz Development Update

Cafritz Development

In tomorrow’s council work session, the Mayor and the council will discuss the Cafritz development one more time.

The Prince George’s County Planning Board continued the public hearing scheduled for the Cafritz property rezoning to January 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm. The City of College Park has not taken a position on this project and has been participating in a series of small group meetings with representatives of the applicant, Town of Riverdale Park and Town of University Park with the intent of reaching a consensus position on the project.

The Cafritz property working group has held five meetings since December 15, 2011 and has three remaining meetings (January 3, 4, and 5). Each meeting addresses a different topic with the goal of resolving outstanding issues.

Council member Stullich prepared a document that merged the three town’s positions and organized them by topic to facilitate the works group’s review and discussion. It excludes any language related to the CSX Crossing as additional information related to this issue is forthcoming and will be the last critical item to be discussed.

The applicant has revised the development plan to address many of the urban design issues raised by the towns. New sketch plans have been submitted that represent two acceptable alternatives The most recent draft of proposed consensus conditions recognizes these schemes and acknowledges that a certain amount of flexibility should be allowed during build out in order to accommodate specific conditions and the desire for a mix of uses to be built in each phase.

While all of the proposed consensus conditions are still under discussion, the major remaining issues are: 1) What type and level of LEED standard should be required; 2) Legal issues surrounding Detailed Site Plan review in the M-U-TC zone; and 3) Timing and payment for the CSX Crossing.

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