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Greenbelt Sector Plan May Back Off on Widening Roadways

County planners think they may be able to mitigate the intersections that Greenbelt is concerned about by other means besides widening roadways, a planning coordinator says.

 

On the heels of a letter from Greenbelt Mayor Judith "J" Davis that blasted tenets of the preliminary Greenbelt Sector plan, a county planner said changes may be on the way. New transportation guidelines may alleviate some Greenbelt and other communities concerns, according to Chad Williams, a planning coordinator with the Prince George's County Planning Department.

The mayor's letter, sent on behalf of Greenbelt City Council to officials on the Prince George's County Council and the county's Planning Board, complained that the draft sector plan would transform Greenbelt into a city defined by the roads that separated it.

Davis also conveyed City Council's dismay that the Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Sector Plan disregarded many of the city's major concerns.

Williams said on Friday that he couldn't go into specifics, but he did offer that in his perspective the new Transportation Review Guidelines Part I, approved by the county planning board on Oct. 11, place more emphasis on transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities than past guidelines.

The Mayor's letter, which the city hand-delivered on the sector plan's Oct. 17 final deadline for public comment, complained that the widening of several roadways conflicted with recommendations of the plan to improve pedestrian and bicyclist connections. The letter specifically addressed roadways such as the reconstruction of Kenilworth Avenue at its Greenbelt Road interchange and widening Hanover Parkway to a four-lane cross section south of Hanover Drive.

Greenbelt's feedback will play a part in the planning board's work session with staff slated for Nov. 15, which will take public comment under consideration.

But even now, Williams said he has participated in discussions with staff transportation planners who think they may be able to mitigate the intersections Greenbelt is concerned about by means other than widening. They're going to take another look at the intersections and probably focus more on the roadways themselves rather than the intersections, he added.

The plan's most significant problem, according to Davis' letter involves its vision for the future. The draft plan is based on a vision where every major commercial property in Greenbelt will be redevoloped—for the sake of change and not because change is warranted, according to Davis.

In the letter, Council also agreed that Beltway Plaza could benefit from redevelopment, but it objected to some of the ways the sector plan proposes to address redevelopment, such as its rezoning Beltway Plaza to Mixed Use Infill, M-U-I, at this time. M-U-I allows a mix of commercial, recreational, open space, employment, institutional and residential uses, according to the the county planning department's website.

When it comes to residential uses, the draft sector plan calls for 10,000 more housing units in the future, which would double the city's housing stock, according to Davis. The plan is doing this to address a future demand, but does not address the actual housing needs of Greenbelt, such as greater affordable housing and active senior housing, Davis stated.

The plan also recommends branding the Hanover Parkway corridor as the "Medical Mile," which relates the concentration of medical and allied health businesses to Doctor's Hospital, but Council does not want this to detract from the technology field also found in Greenbelt East, Davis stated.

Greenbelt had additional criticisms such as the plan's proposal for full-scale redevelopment of commercial properties, its zoning recommendations for Franklin Park apartments, and its not taking into consideration city facility and service needs.

Along with the criticisms, the mayor's letter says the plan has elements the city supports, such as environmental protections, and its focus on encouraging greater transit use and improving pedestrian and bicyclist connections—although it did not agree with how it carried out this focus.

But that may be in flux in light of the new transportation guidelines.

The planning board will discuss the concerns it may mitigate at the Nov. 15 meeting in the Prince George's County Administration Building.

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