Residents of Prince George's County's Glenn Dale neighborhood got a reprieve yesterday when the County Council delayed action on a rezoning request that would have allowed builder Ted Lerner to construct a shopping center in a planned residential area.
Council Vice Chairwoman Hilda Pemberton said the action was put off for two weeks so that Chairman William B. Amonett, who was absent yesterday because of a death in his family, could be included in a vote on the controversial issue.
Earlier this month, the council voted 6 to 2 to approve Lerner's rezoning application in spite of negative recommendations from several county agencies and over the protests of more than 70 nearby residents.
The Lerner project is to be called Bell Station Shopping Center and is to include a six-screen movie theater, a restaurant, drugstore, drive-in bank and "food bazaar."
Without Amonett's favorable vote, it was unclear whether Lerner could have won final approval yesterday. Pemberton, who was not present for the Oct. 14 preliminary tally, said she had not decided how to vote on the matter.
"Hopefully, the concerns raised by the citizens can be worked out," Pemberton said. "If not, we'll just have to act based on the evidence before us."
Some residents near Rtes. 193 and 450 who have opposed the plan said that they will use the time between now and the Nov. 18 rescheduled vote to lobby council members and organize even more forcefully against the project.
"It gives us more time, I guess, to get our act together and build some more support," said Perry Cowgill, who owns a 15-acre farm about 100 yards from the proposed shopping center.
Former council member Gerard McDonough, who is representing Lerner before the council, said that he does not expect the delay to change the council's preliminary decision.
"It's simply a difference between no growth and select, quality application, which I think we have with Mr. Lerner," he said.
But County Executive Parris Glendening, who takes pains to stay out of council zoning disputes, said yesterday that the county is more interested in attracting large multiuse office parks and job centers like the Maryland Science and Technology Center in Bowie.
"We want to do it aggressively and do it well," Glendening said, adding that, in general, strip-type shopping centers do not fit in with his notion of quality development.
Council members Richard J. Castaldi and Jo Ann T. Bell drafted a letter to county Planning Board Chairman John Rhoades yesterday that will, if the council agrees to send it on Nov. 18, become an informal policy statement on development in the communities of Glenn Dale, Lanham and Seabrook and the city of Bowie.
It states in part that the council "is fearful that zoning decisions made now may undermine the validity of master plan proposals and possibly begin a snowballing of land use commitments that will establish a development character devoid of any long-range policy consideration."