Accokeek Groups At Loggerheads
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Two Accokeek-based community groups are at odds over a planned retail center along Route 210 and are preparing to weigh in at a meeting Monday with the Prince George's County Council and Planning Board in Upper Marlboro.
The development, called Accokeek Crossing, would be 400,000 to 550,000 square feet and occupy more than 56 acres at the southeastern intersection of Route 210 (Indian Head Highway) and Livingston Road in Accokeek.
In October, residents and politicians affiliated with the Greater Accokeek Civic Association organized to protest the development, saying it would be little more than a strip mall that would provide the kind of shopping that exists on the highway.
But members of the Accokeek Smart Growth Coalition, a community organization pushing for development in the area, said the proposal would be a high-end project that would reduce shopping commute times, spark business growth and allow residents to spend more time closer to home. Hopes are high for restaurants and fine retailers for clothing and electronics, but no stores are lined up for the project, which is in the early stages of development.
"I'm tired of living in my car," said Chuck Clagett, coalition vice president. "We're all driving somewhere. It's like that side of Indian Head Highway has been abandoned by the county."
Four shopping centers are anchored by grocery stores along Indian Head Highway through Fort Washington and Accokeek, most surrounded by fast-food restaurants or small retailers.
Clagett, whose family owns a majority of the property along Indian Head Highway where the development would be, said the coalition is pushing for the four parcels of land near the intersection to be rezoned from rural-residential to commercial, which would allow the project to move forward.
The project's developer, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers, does not have a commercial zoning permit. On March 4, Regency Centers withdrew its request for rezoning, leaving the coalition to try to persuade the County Council to rezone the site.
Coalition members said the developer plans to build the retail center, even if the zoning change is approved. Regency Centers did not respond to calls for comment.
County planners said rezoning the area would be a hard sell because Accokeek was never meant to house large shopping centers and commercial developments.
"Accokeek is not a growth area," said Wendy Irminger, a county planning coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. "Smart growth requires a place where public money will go to support it."
Irminger points to the Route 301-Route 5 corridor through Temple Hills, Clinton and Brandywine as areas appropriate for transit-oriented growth. The Branch Avenue Metro station is in the area, and a proposed rapid-transit project would link the station to Waldorf in Charles County, she said.
Community members who oppose the project say the area cannot support another retail development.
"It's an unpopular development," said Kelly Canavan, a community leader and association member. "You don't rezone a community to build a market that doesn't exist."
Canavan said the group supports small businesses that support the community.
"Not every community needs to have a Target store," she said.