The Hyattsville City Council has scheduled a vote for Monday on the proposed annexation of University Hills, an unincorporated subdivision on the city's northern border.
Council President Stuart Eisenberg said after a July 1 hearing that the decision to delay voting -- announced by Mayor William F. Gardiner after council members met behind closed doors with City Attorney Richard Colaresi -- was because of concerns about the "legal description" of the area slated for annexation.
"It wasn't a big deal," Eisenberg said.
But possible annexation has become a big deal to some residents of University Hills, a community of single-family homes just west of Adelphi Road near the University of Maryland's southwest corner. About 50 people from the neighborhood attended the recent hearing at the Hyattsville Municipal Building.
"You call it annexation, I call it property genocide," University Hills resident Pedro Egwim told council members, who previously had given preliminary approval to annexing the neighborhood but are required to hear public testimony before making a final decision. "When our taxes go up to $6,000 or $7,000 . . . the main issue is, can we afford it?"
Such foes of annexation say that Prince George's County, which taxes University Hills residents for public services such as snow removal and code enforcement, is adequately responsive to local problems. If the community is annexed to Hyattsville, residents would pay less in county taxes, although some fear they would end up paying more to Hyattsville for the same services.
But longtime University Hills resident Sue Decker is among those who say an expansion of student rental housing in their neighborhood has caused parking problems, excessive noise and unsightly deterioration that Hyattsville could help alleviate.
"I believe we need to look at the health, safety and well-being of the community," Decker said. "Living within the city of Hyattsville would provide us the services we need."
Maryland law allows an incorporated municipality to add adjoining unincorporated property if 25 percent of the voters in the area to be annexed, and property owners holding at least 25 percent of its assessed value, petition for annexation. Last year, Decker and other residents of University Hills -- a neighborhood of about 1,500 -- began collecting signatures and eventually submitted a request to be annexed by Hyattsville.
City officials then added some properties on the east side of Adelphi Road, not in University Hills, to the request, an addition that would extend the city's boundaries to the edge of the University of Maryland. But at the hearing, some annexation opponents, such as Patricia Bruce, questioned the city's right to change the original request.
"The City of Hyattsville and its City Council are not representing my interests and have no authority to make decisions on my behalf," said Bruce, who lives in one of the non-University Hills homes on the east side of Adelphi Road slated for annexation.
Bruce has launched a drive to bring the issue to a referendum if the Hyattsville council approves annexation. Opponents would have 45 days after a council decision to collect enough signatures -- 20 percent of the voters in the area to be annexed -- to require that a neighborhood vote for or against annexation be held.
"During the last 24 years, there have been a lot of changes in University Hills," said annexation supporter Bryan Larson. "I've seen more rental properties, and lawns and properties deteriorate. I never see a police car in the neighborhood unless somebody calls one."
Rose Dunphy, another University Hills resident, said annexation could resolve problems she faces regularly: "fighting day to day to park near the home you pay taxes for, the commercial vehicles parked on lawns, the loud music, the street-littering, the occasional drug depot near our home."
Others at the hearing disagreed.
"I've had no problem with the county taking care of my trash or potholes," Carl Landi said. "Annexation will do us no good. It will just cost us more for what we're getting right now. I think the county's doing a . . . good job."