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Time to Speak about Proposed Changes to the Neighborhood

http://zoningpgc.pgplanning.com/zoning-swipe-tool/After many months of work on “Zoning Rewrite”, the County has proposed a streamlined zoning map for the entire county. For a few areas of north College Park, especially in the Hollywood Commercial district and the areas along Route 1, some of the proposed changes are concerning. For those living near the Edgewood and Rhode Island Avenue area, the new zoning could mean considerable density in the form of retail and residential combined properties. This could greatly impact our small-town feel. This includes:

  • CGO (Edgewood and RI Ave.) — 20 townhouses/48 multifamily units per acre; 4-5 stories
  • IH (Stone Property) — heavy industrial uses or 12 multifamily/live-work residences per acre; no height requirement but there are conditions
  • RMF 20( North Autoville) — up to 40 townhouses/20 multifamily buildings per acre; 4 stories
  • NAC (Cherry Hill/South Autoville) — 30 units/acre; 3-4 stories
  • LTOe (East & West side of Rt. 1) — 40 units/acre; 6 stories

The City Council sent a letter sharing its concerns a few months ago. The letter has been accepted as part of the record.

Please sign up to pre-register by 3 p.m., Thursday, September 9, 2021 to speak at the Public Hearings on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021 at 5 p.m. or Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 at 5 p,m. Click on the following link to do so.

Written testimony will also be accepted in lieu of or in addition to oral testimony. It must be done through Council’s eComment portal not US mail. Comments can be emailed: clerkofthecouncil@co.pg.md.us or faxed to 301-952-5178.

All written comments may be submitted through Wednesday, September 29, 2021 at 4 p.m.

View the Public Hearings via live stream here.

To learn more about the Zoning Rewrite process, its purpose, and the opportunity to participate in a Public Hearing, visit: https://pgccouncil.us/589/Zoning-Ordinance-Rewrite-Portal

For a guide to easily compare all the new zones and what they entail, check the following link: https://pgccouncil.us/DocumentCenter/View/4056/Guide-to-Zoning-Categories-

If you do not know what your neighborhood/area is currently zoned, use the first link below to use an interactive map to determine your zone.  Then, for further explanation of how that zone was determined, see this link.

The NCPCA will be having a special session at this Thursday’s meeting with a  guest from County’s planning board to answer your questions.

Hollywood and Daniels Park – A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

DanielParks

I’m a student of science and technology, but I also love history. History helps us travel into the past and see how things all started when we weren’t there.

Since I made College Park my hometown, I’ve had many opportunities meeting with many of my neighbors, who set their foot in our beloved town many years ago, some even years before I was born. During our many conversations over the years with these neighbors, they told me many stories about how our two neighborhoods, Hollywood and Daniels Park used to look like. They told me how they raised their families, and how much our neighborhoods have changed since they bought their first homes in early 1950’s. These are the neighbors who built our communities. We definitely owe them a debt of gratitude for all they have done for us.

Over the years, I saw many of these longtime neighbors leaving our town. Sadly, some moved to senior housing, some to assisted living outside of College Park and some even died. What I found scary is that when they left, they also took a treasure of history and stories with them. Though a good amount of work has been done to preserve the history of other parts of the city, very little to none has been done to collect the histories of our neighborhoods in north College Park.

Two years ago, I asked my colleagues on the City Council to set aside a small fund so that Council members can use that fund to do small projects related to the neighborhoods they serve. Using this fund, we’re were lucky to recruit a University of Maryland Anthropology student, Moriah James as a Council intern to collect the history of our two neighborhoods – Hollywood and Daniels Park. Over her summer break, Moriah spent many hours in interviewing many of our long term residents and doing research to collect histories of these neighborhoods. I’m extremely grateful to many neighbors for giving their time, some even giving precious artifacts, such as old photos and maps.

Tomorrow, Moriah will be presenting her work at the regular Council meeting.

Please read here her report here.  The History and Heritage of Daniels Park and Hollywood on the Hill

I’m sure many of you will enjoy the stories in Moriah’s report and find them fascinating. Some parts of history in the report go back a long before we had trolley train going along Rhode Island Avenue, when Edgewood Rd was a dirt road, and children used to play on what we now call I-495 beltway.

I know the report may not be complete. But let’s take this just a start. We plan to build a wiki website where we can add more content and make the history of neighborhoods more complete.

Thank You for Making a Difference

Thanks to everyone who joined us this morning at the Hollywood commercial district beautification project. We worked together to face lift one corner of our commercial district – the area where the dry cleaner is located. Check it out when you drive around the corner. It should look a lot better than what it looked last week. The team planted flower plants in the island and also in five big planters. We pruned trees, mowed grass, painted retaining wall, guardrails and dumpster. Renting a dumpster is easy, learn more about the process here. We also did quite a bit of cleanup.

Thanks also to all our sponsors – MoM’s for breakfast, Public Works for compost, property owner for the plants and paints and Greenscape Horticultural for free service and equipment. Thanks to Mayor Pro-Tem Mitchell and Council member Wojahn for their time as well.

A very good job done by everyone. Please stay tuned. We plan to do a few more beautification projects in the coming months.
Here are a few pictures showing the changes the team made at today (before on the left and after on the right).,

guardrails

retaining wall

little island

planters

Dumpster

Hollywood Cleanup 2012 – In Pictures

I want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone who showed up at yesterday’s Hollywood cleanup event. More than 50 volunteers took part in the event and helped clean a fairly large part of Hollywood neighborhood. Your time and effort will certainly be appreciated by our neighbors. Our special thanks go to County Council woman Mary Lehman, University of Maryland SGA / CVICUS, Police Community Liaison officers Ofc. Lobin and Ofc. Black and Pizza Roma. Thank you all!

Ideas on Rhode Island Avenue Crosswalks

It’s been a while residents in north College Park have been discussing the issue of pedestrian safety at the Rhode Island Avenue (between Edgewood and MD 193).

The NCPCA also discussed this issue in the past several times.

The City and the County will soon have another opportunity to discuss this matter further. Based on my research, I’ve compiled a list of possible ways to make Creative Crosswalks that may be suitable for Rhode Island. Please see these options below and let me know your thoughts on them.

1.      Raised, textured crosswalk.

2.      Brick crosswalk.

3. HAWK signal When not activated, the signal is blanked out. The HAWK signal is activated by a pedestrian push button or passive pedestrian sensor. The overhead signal begins flashing yellow and then solid yellow, advising drivers to prepare to stop. The signal then displays a solid red and shows the pedestrian a “Walk” indication. Finally, an alternating flashing red signal indicates that motorists may proceed when safe, after coming to a full stop. The pedestrian is shown a flashing “Don’t Walk” with a countdown indicating the time left to cross

 

 

 

4. In-Street Signs

In-street crosswalk signs can be installed at un-signalized pedestrian crossings to make the crosswalk more visible and increase driver yielding. They are placed at the crosswalk on a median, but should not obstruct the pedestrian path of travel.

 

5. Flashing yellow beacon: Cheaper than hawk lights but somewhat debatable. The County put in a pedestrian activity flashing yellow beacon at the Trolley Trail where it crosses Paint Branch Parkway. That introduced a relatively unfamiliar traffic feature which made pedestrians feel a false sense of security. That was because motorists view a yellow light as a signal to yield not stop. At least 3 people were hit.

Hollywood: Despite Lack of Progress, Dreams Live On

Hollywood Commercial District (Present), corner of Nantucket Road and Rhode Island Avenue, facing north. The existing conditions include prominent power lines, narrow sidewalks, garbage bins, and widely spacedbuildings with little presence on the street. The frontage road is lined only by grassy medians

Hollywood Commercial District - Artist's rendering. An attractive, walkable environment for strolling pedestrians. Once side medians are planted—and a transit lane is added to the center of Rhode Island Avenue (Draft, see the amendments )

In 2009, the M-NCPPC, after several community meetings, the Maryland Park and Planning released the final US 1 Corridor sector plan documents.

The two year old, 100+ page heavy Route 1 sector plan documents may be gathering dusts in the M-NCPPC’s office shelves, but that shouldn’t stop us from keeping our dreams alive.

I took the artist’s rendering of what our Hollywood Commercial District would look like from the plan along with a picture of what it looks now (please see above).

The plan’s vision statement lays out a rather impressive goal: “The Central US 1 Corridor is a vibrant hub of activity highlighted by walkable concentrations of pedestrian- and transit-oriented mixed-use development, integration of the natural and built environments, extensive use of sustainable design techniques, thriving residential communities, a complete and balanced transportation network, and a world-class educational institution.”

The sector plan envisions the following changes to the area.

Maximize the potential of the Rhode Island Avenue multiway boulevard
New sidewalks and parallel parking shouldbe added, and street trees should be planted inrows on the median and along the sidewalks.Private investment will follow public investment,yet regulatory reform is necessary to require thekind of development which lives up to its multiwayboulevard address. Redevelopment in appropriateplaces should be in the form of multi-story, multiusebuildings with storefronts and mid-blockparking.

Provide a green for neighbors and visitors
A green at any one of the four corners of the intersection of Edgewood Drive and Rhode IslandAvenue can become a highly visible and much frequented centerpiece of Hollywood. A small structure in the park such as a gazebo can servecommunity functions. Parallel parking along theRhode Island Avenue multiway boulevard should beoffered instead of a large parking lot.

Share the parking and interconnect it
Create shared parking regulations. Businesses that have different peak times (a medical office and amovie theater for example) can utilize the sameparking spaces and reduce the total number of spaces needed. Consolidated driveways will allowbusinesses to share parking spaces. Interconnecting the parking lots and assembling a network of alleyswill allow motorists to circulate between nearbybusinesses without necessarily re-entering the trafficon Rhode Island Avenue.

Please also check the related amendments to this draft plan. I made a post on the amendments before here.

There are some silver linings in this lack of development though. After the County finishes installing the traffic signal and its other improvements at the four corner intersection, the City will be working on a streetscape improvement plan. It says it will be also holding a public session on the proposed community center.

Come and See Gateway Park Designs

Gateway park design competition

The design of Hollywood Gateway Park is coming to the finish line.

Three competing designs will be on display at this month’s NCPCA meeting for public comment. NCPCA meeting will be on Thursday, April 14th, 7:30 pm, Davis Hall (corner of 51st Avenue and Indian Lane).

NCPCA earlier formed a committee on the proposed park and came up with a design based on preliminary ideas.

The City has also sponsored a design competition among UMd landscape architecture students.

There will also be presentations on the designs on Wednesday, April 13th at 7:00 PM at Davis Hall. 

Please come and see the proposed designs on these meetings and have your comments heard.

Lehman Talks about Budget, School and Ethics Bill at NCP Forum

Mary Lehman at NCPCA, Feb 2011

Mary Lehman, our new county council member for District 1 came over the other day to the NCPCA’s February monthly meeting and spoke about her new job in Upper Marlboro.

In front of some 30 North College Park residents, her speech covered a wide range of topics, such as the county budget, local school system and the much-controversial ethics bill.

She said the county council recently had a hearing on the proposed county budget at the Laurel High School. The hearing was attended by about 20-25 people. Similar to the State’s budget process, the county budget is introduced by the county executive body. She said the the council cannot make a lot of changes to Mr. Baker’s budget and can only move around money and substitute existing proposed programs.

She said the county is facing a projected $77 million budget shortfall in 2012 (the school system has been in worst shape). The PGCPS is facing somewhere between a $85 million to $100 million deficit. The county executive Mr. Baker, after speaking with school superintendent Mr. Hite, said the situation is really grim. The new budget will affect the school system with larger class sizes and eliminating Pre-K classes.

The school system is also looking into possibilities of limiting school transportation to students going to out of local school districts. The county has the highest transportation cost per student in the entire state and this  costs the county a small fortune. “I know a student who lives in my neighborhood which has a blue ribbon school, but takes an empty bus to travel 20 miles to another elementary school,” – she said. “To me this does not make sense,” – Lehman added.

Among the other budget items, the public hearing also received supports for the proposed Laurel Public Library, which has been in the county’s funding pipeline since 2005.

She said she objected to two ethics bills in the MD House of Delegates, one by Co. Exec Rushern Baker and another by Del. Frush. She said both bills will take away the county council’s ability to review Detailed Site Plans, and will leave up to the citizens to request call-up to district council on any future site plan review. “We need to have a check and balance kind of system. The process of planning approval favors the developer and is not really citizen friendly” – she said. “The Planning Board often does not follow its own rules in many cases with giving notices, comments and technical staff report issued on time,” – she added.

Though critics say other chartered counties such as Howard, Anne Arundel and MoCo don’t have a similar restrictive site plan review process, Lehman said that PG county is in a unique position because of the Park and Planning’s involvement in the approval process.  “Unlike the PG county where the county executive appoints Park and Planning representatives, the Montgomery county’s council members appoint the park and planning members,” – she explained.

When asked about the Washington Post’s criticism on the council members’ opposition to the bill, Ms. Lehman said “we are interested in some level of reform, but taking away our site plan review is not an ethics reform.

Ms. Lehman said she is committed to working on the traffic lights at the intersection of Rhode Island and Edgewood Rd., as well as the proposed North College Park Community Center.

Lackawanna Streetscape Project Turns Street into ‘a Runway’, Residents Complain

Lackawanna Streetscape Plan

Lackawanna Streetscape Plan

The $100K Lackawanna streetscape project that was once designed to give a facelift to one of north College Park’s major neighborhood street is instead stirring much controversy, so much so that some neighbors on the street think the City is ruining their neighborhood street.

The City received the funding through Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grant to beautify the east part of Lackawanna St. between Narragansett Pkwy and 53rd Avenue. Many residents use the street as an access point to the north gate of the Greenbelt Metro station.

At the heart of the controversy lies the rows of bright white street lights that the City’s engineer and planner have used to illuminate the 2500 ft long street segment. Though the City has been working on the streetscape project for more than a year, Pepco activated the lights last Friday.

Lights Flood Lackawanna Street

Lackawanna St. Light

In this holiday season, when residents decorate their house porches and roof tops with red, green and white lights, a city street has joined that festivities with rows of bright white lights.

Though a coincidence, Lackawanna Street at the Greenbelt Metro’s north entrance, received this face lift through a project called “Lackawanna St. Streetscape”.

Pepco energized the lights last night.

The City received a funding of $100,000 from  Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) for pedestrian streetlights as part of the project and lies within the Anacostia Heritage Area (ATHA). 

The North College Park Citizens Association, on March 13, 2009, sent a letter to MHAA supporting the City of College Park’s application for necessary funds in fiscal year 2010.

The project covers the area between Narragansett Pkwy. and the Greenbelt Metro. 

The original project plan includes: upgrade the sidewalks to a brick-like finish to match the homes, plant new trees, gradually change the fences to match the homes, build new crosswalks at intersections, use traffic control measure such as neckdowns (narrowing of roadway) to slow speeders, improve street signage, construct a more attractive gateway to the Metro station, add an alternate footpath to the Metro, and underground the utilities if financially feasible.Lackawanna streetscape.

An artist's rendering of Lackawanna St. streetscape

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