Doris Neble, Sandy Rinck and about 10 other Glenn Dale residents have spent a lot of time on the telephone in the last three weeks calling their council members, their lawyers and anyone else who would listen to their objections to a plan to build a new upscale shopping center in their northern Prince George's County neighborhood.
Their lobbying paid off yesterday when the County Council reversed itself, shifting from a previous endorsement of Montgomery County developer Ted Lerner's Bell Station Shopping Center to a unanimous vote to delay the project indefinitely.
The vote to send the proposal back to a zoning examiner for new hearings signaled a victory for area residents over Lerner, who, represented by one of the county's most influential zoning law firms, had proposed putting a six-screen movie theater, a restaurant, a drugstore, a drive-through bank and a food bazaar at Rtes. 193 and 450, near Glenn Dale.
"The citizens prevailed," Neble, president of the Glenn Dale Citizens' Association, said after the vote. "We asked for orderly development. We don't want piecemeal rezoning."
But Gerard McDonough, one of Lerner's attorneys, said the delay could send the wrong message to developers seeking to build in Prince George's.
"To [developers] it seems indecisive, [which is] probably the thing a businessman can least stand," he said.
McDonough was accompanied yesterday by his law partners, V. Paul Zanecki and John Lally, as well as by Lerner -- a presence that underlined the importance of the project the attorneys had said could set a positive precedent for future quality development in the county.
About 60 area residents, sporting protest T-shirts and carrying printed signs, were jubilant after the council voted to authorize a special study of planned development for the entire Glenn Dale area within 90 days.
Neble and other residents of the largely rural, residential enclave had argued that the council violated its own planning dictates when it gave the project preliminary approval last month. Residents had won a delay on final council action earlier this month.
Council member Richard J. Castaldi, who represents the nearby Bowie area, said that constituent pressure, combined with council reaction to an unrelated Circuit Court zoning decision on the proposed Konterra "minicity" near Laurel, helped change council members' minds.
Last month, Judge James Magruder Rea ruled that the council erred when it granted only two-thirds of the commercial zoning requested for the massive Konterra project. Similarly, Glenn Dale residents had threatened to appeal the council's decision to the courts.
"If you don't use a good process, the courts can rule by default," Castaldi said.
The zoning hearing examiner, planning board, county historical society and transportation planners had recommended against the plan when it first came before the council.
Another shopping center is not needed in that area, Castaldi contended.
"You can throw a stone in every direction [and hit] a shopping center," he said.
Lerner, contacted after the vote, declined comment.