County officials have embarked on an aggressive push to bring high-end retail to Prince George’s. The hope is that a Cafritz family proposal to build a mixed-use development in Riverdale Park could lure other much-needed retail to the county. But for some, that hearing was an illustration of how the process can be confusing for developers and the communities affected by their proposals.
“I was surprised,” Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer said. “Not that we didn’t finish, but that Wednesday was as difficult and unproductive as it was.”
Added John Tabori, mayor of neighboring University Park: “When I walked into that meeting, I had zero sense that that massive explosion of confusion was going to occur.”
The District Council, the name the County Council takes when it hears matters relating to development, has held two public hearings on the Cafritz proposal this month but has taken no public testimony.
Given the size of the project — and that it may go into an area populated by people active in civic affairs — nothing about the effort to develop 36 acres of wooded property on Route 1 north of East-West Highway was going to be easy. But a multitude of factors have complicated the approval process.
Part of the difficulty is that this is the first time a developer has attempted to rezone land in Prince George’s set aside for single-family residential homes into a mixed-use town center zone.
A spokesman for the Cafrtiz family said the plans call for the construction of 995 units of multi-family housing, a 120-room hotel, approximately 22,000 square feet of office space and 168,000 square feet of retail. The ultimate square footage could be more or less. A resolution passed by the planning board in February, indicates the amount of retail and “flex” space could range between 134,560 to 201,840 square feet, while office space would range between 17,600 to 26,400 square feet.
If built, the development would be one of the largest infill projects in the county.
Attorneys for the two sides have come up with vastly different interpretations of how the Planning Board and District Council are supposed to proceed. People’s Zoning Counsel Stan D. Brown, whose job is to ensure hearing records are accurate, said the Planning Board did not meet the 105-day deadline that was required to approve the project. He also said the Planning Board erred by placing limits on public testimony during the multiple days of hearings that were held before the project was approved.