Pr. George’s residents impacted by landslide say they are open to county offer


Kevin Simpson stands in front of his Piscataway Hills home in Fort Washington, on a street badly damaged by a landslide in May. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

Residents of a Prince George’s County neighborhood disrupted by a landslide said Wednesday that they would accept the county government’s proposal to purchase and demolish six homes and repair the main road so that 22 other families can remain in their properties.

The decision was announced by the Save Piscataway Hills organization, which represents the residents, after a months-long standoff.

“The affected citizens hope that the declaration brings much needed clarity and action to the situation,” the organization said in a statement delivered to Prince George’s government officials.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), said the county appreciates the residents’ support and the organization’s offers to help locate the funds needed to implement what has become known as “Option 5.”

In the $15.5 million dollar plan, the county government would pay fair market value to the owners of the six properties severely impacted by the slope failure; shore up the collapsing hillside using structural beams; and repair Piscataway Drive, the cracked main road where the houses are located within the bucolic Piscataway Hills neighborhood.


Tracy Rookard walks out the door of her home, declared unsafe to inhabit by the county following a landslide that also damaged the only road in and out of much of Piscataway Hills in Fort Washington. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

Ideally, the construction would begin next spring, but county officials have yet to secure all the money needed to begin the work. They have allocated $11 million to the project.

“We continue to try to find those extra funds,” Peterson said.

The residents’ interaction with the government since the May slope failure has been fraught with confusion and frustration. While Prince George’s officials commissioned a study to evaluate the cause and severity of the collapse, which ruptured water and sewer pipes as well as the main road, residents were displaced and living in hotels or with friends. Their properties were declared unfit and, in a handful of cases, unsafe.

Engineers attributed the slope failure to a thick layer of rain-saturated clay deep within the hillside.

Most of the residents were permitted to return home after imploring the county to allow the utility service provider to install above-ground temporary water and sewer mains. But those lines seem likely to freeze this winter, leaving the community with little time to figure out suitable living arrangements.

Government officials, meanwhile, pored over the costs of various construction projects that would reinforce the slope and preserve the properties. The expense exceeded their budget, triggering appeals for state financial assistance that have been unsuccessful so far.

The residents organized themselves into a cohesive advocacy group and arranged a closed-door meeting with Baker’s staff in late July.

The result was an agreement by the majority of residents to accept “Option 5” and ask that the county find a way to keep them in their homes through the winter, said Dawn Taylor, a spokeswoman for the residents.

They hope that moving forward with the plan will alleviate the anxiety and financial burden they are feeling.

“We want to get started because people are hurting,” Taylor said. “We want to get this resolved so we can get back to our lives.”

Arelis Hernández covers Prince George’s County as part of The Washington Post's local staff.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local