At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, the City Council discussed again the issues surrounding the height of the proposed $115 million, 276-room UMD Hotel at the corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Avenue.
The developer of the hotel is seeking a modification to the height limits in this area, which are currently set at 2-6 stories, per Route 1 Sector plan.
The developer’s architect has now filed information with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for FAA Part 77 review. The filing shows that the hotel is to be 161 feet in height. That height will exceed the Part 77 criteria by 35 feet, a large number close to any airport.
The FAA regulation states that no part of a structure may exceed the Part 77 Horizontal Surface. That surface is defined as being 150 feet above the airport reference point, in this case 198 feet above mean sea level. The sketch below illustrates the issue. The shaded area penetrates the surface.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) has also strongly asked the city council to make approval of a hotel proposed for construction on land near the city airport conditional on the hotel’s height being reduced by 35 feet to avoid a potential aircraft collision hazard.
The Council members think the proposed hotel is too tall and may pose hazard to the operation of the College Park Airport.
The College Park Airport Authority has also weighed in on the height, recommending that the maximum height of the property be decreased 35 feet to ensure safe access to the airport.
City staff has recommended allowing an increased height above the Sector Plan standards due to the need for increased room space to support the conference center use, but recommends that the applicant obtain a “no hazard” determination from the Federal Aviation Administration and Maryland Aviation Administration.
AOPA pilots complained at last Tuesday’s Council meeting that small planes have trouble gaining altitude when westerly winds are low. AOPA thinks the proposed hotel “significantly penetrates” FAA obstruction surfaces around the College Park Airport, AOPA wrote in a letter to College Park Mayor Andrew M. Fellows.
The association has asked that the hotel only be approved if the structure is capped at 198 feet above mean sea level—not 233 feet msl as now planned—and that the developer, David Hillman, first obtain a “no hazard/no obstacle” determination from the FAA based on an agency study of whether the proposed structure would be a hazard to aviation under Part 77 regulations.
The Council plans to discuss the issue again at its December 9 meeting.