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Restriction on new homes in Brandywine area of Prince George’s being reconsidered

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A moratorium on building homes in the southern part of Prince George’s County may be short-lived.

A County Council member wants to overhaul a resolution that effectively placed a ban on building homes in a large section of the region, and he has a specific development in mind that would benefit.

Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) said the resolution has had unintended consequences, including hindering Stephen’s Crossing, a mixed-used project in Brandywine that could help the county retain and attract a total of 150 jobs at a medical facility.

The resolution, which was introduced by Franklin and approved this summer, was intended to slow the pace of residential development, not to harm economic development, he said. The council was concerned that residential growth had outpaced road improvements in the area.

“I’m trying to be flexible by offering this amendment,” Franklin said. “I know some people might say it looks like we’re changing our mind. No. You want to be flexible.”

The council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee was expected to discuss the amendment Wednesday.

The resolution prohibited builders that failed to meet adequate-roads standards from contributing to the Brandywine Road Club, a fund set up in the early 1990s to help offset the cost of building roads. Previously, builders that did not meet the standards would pay a formula-based fee to satisfy the requirement.

The amendment would exempt mixed-used developments from the resolution.

“Even though it’s not an effective way to provide transportation funding for the area, we don’t want any unintended consequences to prevent high-quality commercial” development, Franklin said.

Patrick Byrne, the developer of Stephen’s Crossing, said Greater Metropolitan Orthopaedics, which sees 150,000 patients a year, wants to consolidate its offices in Prince George’s and Charles counties and build one big facility in Brandywine. He said the medical offices would anchor a $100 million project and eventually become a hub for medical services in southern Prince George’s.

Byrne said he believes Greater Metropolitan Orthopaedics’ presence would prompt general practitioners, dentists and other medical professionals to open offices within the development, bringing much needed access to medical care to the southern part of the county.

Residents have complained for years about having to travel outside of the county for health care.

“Normally an anchor is a Safeway or Giant. The difference here is that we are trying to set a tone for a medical campus,” Byrne said. “We’ve been working on this for two years, and when Mel Franklin came in, it was pulled out from under them. They said we either need to change the mind of Mel Franklin or find a site in Charles County.”

Stephen’s Crossing would have 450 residential units.

Franklin’s amendment is reminiscent of action taken by the council about six years ago.

The council voted in 2004 to allow residential construction only if police and fire departments met certain standards for staffing and emergency response times.

But a year later, after builders complained that the bill stifled growth, the council lengthened the response times and allowed developers to pay a fee if they could not meet the standards.

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