The Prince George's County Planning Board gave final approval last night to a mammoth, $400 million complex of homes, offices and retail establishments in Bowie, which, barring appeal, clears the way for construction.
The Bowie New Town Center complex -- planned to include a shopping mall nearly as large as Virginia's Tysons Corner Center -- would dramatically transform the largely residential northeastern corner of the county, where a giant, high-technology center and a high-rise office and hotel complex also are planned.
The Bowie proposal is to be comparable in size and diversity to two other major developments in the county now in the planning stages: the Konterra project near Laurel, of which 488 acres have been approved, and the 540-acre Port- America development south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
The 4-to-1 vote came despite objections from some Bowie residents and officials who say the complex would exacerbate already serious traffic congestion and change the character of their quiet, bedroom community of 37,000. Some home and office construction could begin this year.
The decision can be appealed to the County Council by any parties to the case, which include the City of Bowie and a group called the Committee of Concerned Citizens. None had decided last night whether to appeal.
As approved, the complex is to include 1,520 residential units, 680,000 square feet of office space and 1.1 million square feet of retail space. Last night's action gives Washington developer Mark Vogel the go-ahead to build, over the next two decades, virtually all of the ambitious project he originally proposed.
"We think it's one of the premier projects in Prince George's County," said Vogel. "It means more jobs and more tax revenues. It's the first large-scale project in Bowie."
Vogel, who is also developing a number of other projects throughout the county, said the New Town Center should create nearly 10,000 jobs.
Yesterday's six-hour Planning Board session on the Bowie project was less hectic than a 13-hour Dec. 19 public hearing, following which the board gave tentative approval to the project. At that time, the board instructed its planning staff -- which originally recommended that the proposal be denied -- to draw up conditions answering concerns about traffic and the adequacy of firefighting and other county services.
In its revised report, released yesterday, the planning staff report urged the board to spread out the construction timetable and tie it to scheduled improvements of nearby roads. But the board again overruled its staff, approving the square footage, building heights, number of dwelling units and a compromise construction timetable proposed by Vogel.
The vote also dismissed objections from the Committee of Concerned Citizens, which had argued that no homes should be built until nearby roads are improved and that building heights should be limited.
"We sure didn't win on any of our points," said Dale Grant, who heads that group.
The 275-acre property is bounded roughly by Rte. 197 (Collington Road), Mitchellville Road and Northview Drive. Rte. 50, a four-lane artery close to the project, is scheduled to become a six-lane interstate by 1991, and Rte. 197 is scheduled to be upgraded from two lanes to four.
To mollify opponents, Vogel has agreed to cut in half the amount of office space and the number of residential units to be built until road improvements are made. He also said he would not open the shopping center until road improvements are made. He agreed to provide a number of public services, including numerous recreational facilities, $275,000 to help build a fire station near the project and $100,000 to help build a new city community center.
Planning Board Chairman John W. Rhoads said the project will be an asset to the county. "People in Bowie are excited about this," he said, adding that there is no major shopping center in the area. "That's the key to the whole project -- the regional mall."
But Grant and the Planning Board staff said the traffic problems will be complicated not only by the New Town Center, but by the University of Maryland's Science and Technology Center, scheduled to go up a half-mile away. The high-rise International Renaissance Center, an office and hotel complex, is proposed a few miles to the south.
Voting for the proposal were Rhoads, Vice Chairman Roy I. Dabney Jr., Samuel Y. Botts and Burton Keller. Voting against was Margaret Yewell, who called the project "exciting," but argued against the timetable that allowed immediate construction of homes.