A Prince George's County zoning examiner ruled yesterday that hundreds of acres of land at the foot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge could be rezoned in order to develop a multimillion dollar waterfront project.
Barry Cramp's decision, after three months of hearings, paves the way for final approval by the County Council of the controversial development.
The project, dubbed the Bay of Americas, calls for a 1,000-slip marina, yacht club, hotel, commercial space, and luxury town houses to be built on 200 acres along the Potomac and on pilings over the 260-acre Smoot Bay.
Supporters of the development, estimated to cost between $300 million and $500 million and called one of the most ambitious projects in the county's history, say it could rival Baltimore's Harborplace, revitalize southern Prince George's County and bring needed revenue into depleted county coffers.
But some residents surrounding the area say the development is too dense and will overload existing roads and other facilities.
The developers, James Burch and Frank Lucente, have requested that zoning for the area be changed from single-family residential category to a category called mixed use-transportation oriented. Cramp ruled yesterday in favor of the change for all but approximately 90 acres of the land, a parcel lying between two developed subdivisions.
The decision follows hearings by the Park and Planning Commission and the State Highway Department, who also approved the rezoning over strong community resistance.
V. Paul Zanecki, an attorney for the developers, said the approval puts his client "in a very wholesome position." But he said he would seek to have the council also rezone the land that Cramp said should not be rezoned because it would bisect large lots that are already developed.
Attorney James Vance, who represents the opponents of the project, said he was not surprised by the ruling and would ask the council to have the examiner's ruling overturned.
Vance argues that the development runs counter to the county's master zoning plan. Though developers say they will provide some road improvements themselves, Vance said he does not believe they have the necessary resources.
" 'I dismiss that as pickle smoke," Vance said. "Have you ever seen pickle smoke? No? You'll never see those road improvements either."