The Prince George's planning board has approved a 140-room hotel, 232 town houses and 109 single-family homes for the Greenbelt area despite protests from city officials that the development would severely tax nearby roads that already are at their capacity.
In voting recently to go ahead with the Greenbrook development, the planning board decided that promises made by local congressional representatives to appropriate enough construction money for improvements to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway would overcome predicted traffic snafus, a planning board spokesman said.
City Manager James K. Giese said that "about $200,000 in design money hs been appropriated by the Congress, but we think the county should've waited until the money to build is on line as well. We are concerned with rapid traffic growth in the area. We don't want to get a Tysons Corner traffic situation over there."
Giese said Greenbelt officials are upset with the planning board's decision, because the city council voted unanimously earlier this month to reject the proposal by three developers, only to have the planning board go against its recommendations a few days later.
"In recent times, the city's recommendations have carried a lot of weight. . . . If there are massive bottlenecks in that area, we're going to say, 'We told you so,' " he said.
Allen Feinberg, a planner with the Prince George's planning board, said, "The planning board felt the roads situation was resolved. They assumed that any transportation problems could be worked out." None of the five planning board members was available for comment.
In a staff report to the planning board recommending against the project, transportation engineers said the proposed residential development, hotel and an additional 300,000 square feet slated for commercial use would generate at least 1,000 more cars during peak rush hours.
Many of the intersections along Greenbelt Road and Hanover Parkway already are clogged with commuters and are impassable during rush hours, said transportation planner Les Wilkinson, one of the authors of the staff report.
With the new development feeding into the same roads, the problem will worsen, leading to unacceptable traffic on all major roads, the report said.
Money for widening Greenbelt Road is included in the county's five-year capital improvements budget, but none has been earmarked for the critical interchange at Greenbelt Road and the parkway or for ramps into the Greenway Shopping Center. Money also is needed to reconstruct the bridge over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the report said.
Normally, road improvement projects must be programmed into the capital improvements budget before they can win final approval, planners and Giese said. "In this case, the planning board ignored its own criteria," Giese said.
Michael T. Rose, one of the three developers, disputed the county's findings, saying his own study indicates that the town-house and office project will produce only 609 additional cars, not 1,000 or more.
"Our traffic study indicates there is, or will be, adequate road capacity," said Richard Reed, the attorney representing Rose and the other two developers, Hotel Investors Trust, developer of the 140 hotel suites, and Smith-Ewing, developer of the commercial space.
Reed described the area as a booming triangle, with some of "the most desirable commercial office parcels in the county . . . an area of top-end rental uses convenient to Washington and the Beltway."
Greenbelt's Giese said that, although numerous compromises were worked out with the developer, the city still feels it is "getting shortchanged" in the amount of recreational space required for Greenbrook.