Pr. George’s residents affected by landslide say they will keep fighting to find funds

Residents of a Prince George’s County neighborhood impacted by a landslide held a private meeting with government officials Thursday night in hopes of finding a cost-effective way to stabilize a collapsing hillside and save 28 properties in jeopardy.

The nearly two-hour, closed-door meeting at the County Administration Building resulted in no new developments, but members of the Save Piscataway Hills organization — a group representing most of the affected Fort Washington families — said it helped demystify the options before them.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s executive staff reiterated that the county cannot provide more than the $11 million it has allocated for any agreed-upon solution.

In early May, the neighborhood’s main road, Piscataway Drive, cracked and caved in, making it impassible. A chunk of hillside slid onto the roadway, sending trees tumbling and bursting utility pipes. The homes were evacuated, but most homeowners returned weeks later, after temporary water and sewer lines were installed.

Geotechnical engineers blame the landslide on heavy rains that saturated a layer of Marlboro clay embedded in the slope, which gave way and sent earth tumbling to the asphalt below.

The county government has presented different proposals that probably will require buying some or all of the affected properties. But residents are leery of any plan that would break apart their community or result in the demolition of their homes.

The ideal alternatives would repair the slope while saving most of the houses. But the construction project would cost more than what the county says it can afford.

Attorney Patrick O’Neil, who is representing the residents, said the group plans to help Prince George’s explore every possible funding stream, hoping to raise enough money for a $15 million option that would satisfy nearly all of the neighborhood’s concerns.

Despite appeals to the state, the governor’s office has not promised any funds.

“Until we have a solution to find that money, the county and community, in particular, are going to be in limbo until that gap is filled,” O’Neil said. “We’ve got to find the money.”

Arelis Hernández covers Prince George’s County as part of The Washington Post's local staff.

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