Prince George's County Considers Development Plan to Replace Hyde Field Airport

Some Clinton residents fear that a plan to replace Hyde Field with housing and retail might cause overcrowding.
Some Clinton residents fear that a plan to replace Hyde Field with housing and retail might cause overcrowding. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

The neighborhood around Hyde Field in Clinton has a simple charm. Visitors can sit on a wooden bench outside the Miller Farms store, enjoy homemade ice cream and watch single-engine planes landing at the small airport across the street.

That serene setting might soon fade away if a developer's plans to rezone Hyde Field airport and replace it with 2,100 housing units and about 300,000 square feet of retail space are approved by the Prince George's County District Council.

The District Council is expected to discuss changes to the Subregion 5 Master Plan, which includes the 400-acre project, during a joint meeting tomorrow with the Planning Board.

Some residents are protesting because the Hyde Field project is being folded into the county's review of the massive blueprint for the development of southern Prince George's. They say the merits of the project should be weighed separately by a zoning hearing examiner, who would hear testimony from the public, and are asking the council to remove Hyde Field from the draft revision of the master plan.

Project opponents argue that the high-density development, with 900 townhouses and apartments and 1,200 single-family homes, would drastically alter the rural landscape of the community, create bottlenecks on already-clogged roads and bring more students to overcrowded schools. The retail element would include a village center with a grocery store, possibly a department store, and smaller shops.

Planners predict that the development, proposed by Bethesda-based Faison Enterprises, would generate 10,000 additional daily car trips. About 10,000 cars currently pass along two-lane Piscataway Road, where the airport is located.

"This will just take a bad situation and make it impossible," said William Cavitt, vice president of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council.

Mel Franklin, a community activist, agreed. He said Clinton does not have the infrastructure to support the proposed development. Cavitt and Franklin both predicted traffic backups on routes 5 and 210.

"It's not even close to being smart growth," he said. "In fact, it is bad growth. It is one of the worst examples of the type of growth that this area has been saddled with."

Planning Board members who are recommending approval said they are responding to residents' requests for more services in their community.

"We have people who want more" retail, said Samuel Parker Jr., chairman of the Planning Board. He said that the area has "dire transportation needs" and that the project will not move forward until they are addressed.

Chip Reid, an attorney for the developer and owner, Nabil Asterbadi, a Washington-based doctor, said that he has worked closely with the community to try to gain support for the project and that many residents are in favor of it.

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