The Prince George's County Planning Board has postponed hearings on proposed commercial and residential development in Greenbelt after city officials said they need more time to review conflicting traffic studies.
At issue are three proposals for the boom area around the intersection of Greenbelt Road and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near the Beltway and east of Hanover Parkway:
*A 140-room hotel to be developed by Hotel Investors Trust.
*232 town houses and 109 single-family homes in a subdivision to be named Greenbrook that will be developed by Michael T. Rose.
*300,000 square feet of additional commercial and office space to be developed by Smith-Ewing.
Greenbelt's city manager, James K. Giese, said the developers "take issue" with a county report that says the new proposed development will generate an additional 1,000 cars during peak hours.
On the other hand, a traffic study conducted for the developers said the new town houses and single-family homes would generate about 604 additional cars in the evening rush hour, according to Les Wilkinson, a traffic engineer for the park and planning department.
Area development over the past five years has included the Greenway Shopping Center, the Maryland Trade Center Office Park, a Holiday Inn, the Crosswinds Banquet Facility and about 350 of some 700 town houses being built by US Homes as part of the Glen Ora subdivision.
"The area is one of the most desirable commercial office parcels in the county . . . an area of top-end rental uses convenient to Washington and the Beltway," said Richard Reed, the attorney representing developers Michael T. Rose, Hotel Investors Trust and Smith-Ewing.
Reed said that "our traffic study says there is, or will be, adequate road capacity in the area" to handle the development, but he declined to discuss specifics of the study.
He said that current plans are the product of three years of negotiations with Greenbelt officials and that the developers requested a zoning change "from high density to a patchwork of mixed uses to lessen the density because of our awareness of the traffic situation."
Paul Aggarwal, a county planner who is working on the Greenbelt Master Plan, said a substantial faction of area residents believes the area already is overbuilt.
"It's an area of very rapid growth," he said. "People living there complain that the traffic is already bad enough. They wonder if the county is sacrificing quantity for quality."
Aggarwal said that, in addition to the Greenbrook development, Sunrise Condominiums, a community of 500 units, has been approved but not built, and has to be factored into any traffic projections.
Traffic planner Les Wilkinson said that "there probably should be a building moratorium" in the area until more money is earmarked for road improvements.
Wilkinson said that many of the intersections along Greenbelt Road already are clogged with traffic and are impassable at rush hour.
With all the new development feeding onto the same roads, the problem would worsen, giving commuters and residents "unacceptable levels of service on all major roads," he said.
According to Wilkinson, although money for widening and improving Greenbelt Road is already in the county's capital improvement budget, none has been earmarked for a critical interchange at Greenbelt Road and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or for ramps into the Greenway Shopping Center.
Wilkinson also said that, although there is some effort in the House of Representatives to appropriate funds to reconstruct the Greenbelt Road bridge over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, no construction money has been set aside.
Giese said Greenbelt officials are not prepared to endorse anything as radical as a building moratorium. "The City Council has received some commitments and assurances from U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that the roads will be built," he said.