Supporters of the plan to bring a mixed-use development that includes a Whole Foods to Prince George’s County had hoped the project would be approved by the District Council this week — clearing the way for construction to begin on the project.
But questions about whether the Prince George’s County Planning Board followed proper procedure in voting to approve the project has forced the District Council — the name which the County Council takes when it hears development-related matters — to delay a hearing on the matter until April 30.
The council met twice this week on the matter, but has yet to hear any public testimony on the plan. Instead, most of Wednesday’s meeting was taken up by arguments over technical issues related to the planning board’s February vote. On Friday, the council met briefly before adjourning.
“I’m very concerned by this particular case before us,” said District Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Springdale), during Wednesday’s hearing. “I’m very concerned because we’ve not had a situation where we’ve been transmitted a recommendation that has so many problems.”
The development — on 36 acres of wooded property on Route 1 near East-West Highway between Hyattsville and College Park would include 995 units of housing, a 120-room hotel, 22,000 square feet of office space and 68,200 square feet of retail. The parcel is owned by the Cafritz family. If built, it would be one of the largest infill projects in the county.
But the project has been controversial. Many residents in the area oppose it because they fear it will bring more traffic and overwhelm schools.
County Executive Rushern Baker, however, has been a booster of the project because he hopes it will send a message to other developers that Prince George’s can support high-end retail.
When the District Council reconvenes on April 30, it will hold an evidentiary hearing. In an evidentiary hearing, witnesses can be cross-examined by the opposing side. Such hearings are rare in Prince George’s. This is only the second time in recent memory that the District Council has held such a proceeding, according to Karen Campbell, county council spokeswoman.