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University Park Council Sharpens Cafritz Conditions, Seeks Continuance

Members focused on environmental and traffic concerns at Thursday's meeting.

As it fine-tuned its conditions for approval of the proposed , the University Park town council resolved Thursday evening to seek a continuance on next week's pivotal hearing before the Prince George's County Planning Board.

Reading aloud from a letter to the planning board, Mayor Tabori said that the town would request a delay on the grounds that PGCPB staff .

Currently, the board is scheduled to weigh testimony and written submissions on the Cafritz rezoning proposal next Thursday, Dec. 15.

"The council has expressed great concern about the compressed timeframe that has been imposed for the consideration of this important development and the unique circumstances that are involved," the letter reads.

Councilmembers spent the bulk of Thursday's meeting reviewing latest draft of the town's conditions, a document that spells out the exact concessions sought by University Park if the development is to move forward.

Town attorney Suellen Ferguson explained that many of the town's proposed conditions cannot legally be required by the county planning board or district council during the rezoning process. Instead, they must be independently agreed upon through negotiations between the town and the developer, which are still ongoing.

One of the key areas of concern in University Park's conditions, Ferguson said, are the modifications proposed to the Mixed Use Town Center (MUTC) review procedures. 

Under , the 38.5-acre parcel on the north end of Riverdale Park would be redesignated from residential (R-55) to MUTC, easing the way for the construction of more than 900 units of housing, a 35,000-sqft. Whole Foods, a 120-room hotel, and additional office and retail space.

Ordinarily the final approval stage of an MUTC development would be limited to permitting, a comparatively straightforward process in which neighboring towns would have little or no say. But College Park, University Park, and Riverdale Park have been working on an amended procedure that would include a more rigorous detailed site plan phase and incorporate significant input from all three communities.

The towns would prefer to accomplish that change by "graft[ing] the detailed site plan on" to MUTC, Ferguson said, but it's not yet clear whether doing so might require the more burdensome step of revising the law.

"Riverdale Park is attempting with their attorney to develop language which will reduce the possibility … for a rewrite of the law," Tabori said.

"We think we may have found a way around it, but we're not sure yet," he added.

Among the other conditions discussed at Thursday's meeting:

  • Cafritz attorney Chip Reed requested that the town revise its requirement for a green roof on the development's parking structure on the grounds that the garage would be a particularly difficult location to install one. Councilmembers appeared open to demanding "comparable" green roof space, instead. 
  • Councilmember Len Carey requested that the traffic impact study for the project incorporate the impact of planned development along the Route 1 corridor rather than just approved development. Ferguson suggested limiting this requirement to any development with an approved preliminary plan of subdivision — an intermediate step — but said she would have to review the implications of the proposal.
  • Reed noted that the site would be ineligible for the LEED for Neighborhood Development designation unless the density of residential units was increased beyond Cafritz's own proposal. Councilmembers discussed and appeared amenable to a requiring a different standard (possibly the silver level of LEED for New Construction). "I don't want to be in a position of pushing them for more density," Carey said.
  • Ferguson warned that while the State Highway Administration seemed likely to approve a traffic signal at the main Route 1 entrance to the Cafritz property, it was theoretically possible that the SHA would reject the idea. Cafritz representatives said that they had received no pushback from the SHA during a preliminary discussion of the light and that Whole Foods would probably not be interested in opening a store without it.

The council will continue its discussions Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Riverdale Presbyterian Church (6513 Queens Chapel Rd).

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