A shadow was cast over plans for a $15 million hotel complex in the Metro East triangle near New Carrollton recently when the Prince George's County zoning hearing examiner announced his opposition to the project on the grounds that the developers do not plan to build enough parking spaces.
In a 10-page recommendation, the examiner, Barry S. Cramp, said the developers had not demonstrated why they should be granted the waiver of parking requirements they want for the 310-room Holiday Inn. Plans for the hotel have already been endorsed by County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan as part of his effort to bring more high quality development to the county.
Cramp suggested that if the developers, Markeck Ltd., agreed to provide 545 parking spaces instead of 503 they want to build, he might reconsider his opposition.
Controversy over how much parking space should be provided for the hotel has slowed the progress of the proposal through county offices. In June the planning board recommended approval of the hotel project if the developers agreed to build 767 parking spaces. County zoning legislation calls for 1,059 spaces for a hotel the size of the planned Holiday Inn, a requirement the developers and some county officials feel is too high.
The proposal as drawn up by Mardeck will now be forwarded to the County Council along with the recommendations of Cramp and the planning board.
"I'm glad the zoning examiner recommended denial," said New Carrollton Mayor Jordan Harding. "Over the years, New Carrollton has suffered enough because of unplanned growth and lack of parking in this area. I'm disappointed that he seems willing to approve a project with 545 spaces, but anyway you cut it, this is a victory for New Carrolton.
"This is no no way the final decision," said Russell W. Shipley, attorney for the hotel developers. "The (County) Council could still grant us a special exception and waiver for the hotel, under some special conditions."
Shipley also noted that if Mardeck amends its proposal and adds the necessary parking spaces, its application probably would have to be sent back to both the planning board and zoning examiner.
"We offered to add 70 extra spaces to our original application (which called for 503 spaces) in hearings before the zoning examiner, but the lawyer for the area hotel owners opposing the project objected," said Shipley.
Shipley said that he will meet this week with his client and the Shell Oil Co. Shell owns property adjacent to the site of the proposed hotel.
"We still have the option of buying a few more acres and adding the 70 spaces," Shipley said.
"It's taken us nearly a year to get this far," said Ralph Decklebaum, chief operating officer of Mardeck. "It's really hard to imagine going through the whole process again."
Development of the remainder of the Metro East triangle is well under way. Along with several major office buildings, the 83-acre commercial area will include the People's Security Bank and Retail Clerks Union. Three office buildings have been completed and are occupied.
"The Holiday Inn complex would add a great deal to the area," said James Rogers, a developer and commercial booster for the Mertro East triangle. "The workers in all the office buildings out here are going to need a place to eat lunch. In addition, the hotel would be pretty convenient for business guests."
As it stands now, the hotel developers face an uphill battle for approval of the project. The city of New Carrollton and several area hotel owners have promised to take their fight against the proposed Holiday Inn to the County Council hearings, which will probably take place in late November.
"The . . . council will be pretty hard-pressed not to approve this hotel," said Harding. "It won't be killing quality development, because this is prime property we're talking about.If a hotel isn't built on it, some other valuable and highly profitable business will."