Critics push back against Greenbelt Metro plan

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's County's plan to reinvent the neighborhood around the Greenbelt Metro station is meeting with criticism from local governments and residents.

Critics at a public hearing said the plan strays from its intended purpose to provide better access for pedestrians and bicyclists and pushes redevelopment at the expense of current residents. More generally, local officials are worried that the county is not taking local issues and input into account.

"The plan sets out some really great policies and guidelines, but then when it comes to implementation, the plan doesn't seem to respect those guidelines," said Terri Hruby, Greenbelt's assistant planning director. "We're looking for a vision that doesn't just have the needs of the region of Prince George's County."

The plan incorporates housing, commercial development, green building, park space and multiple transit options. A main feature of the proposal is a robust move to add mixed-use development, incorporating office, commercial and residential space around the Metro station.

One of Greenbelt officials' main concerns about the plan is a proposal to widen roads. More lanes mean more inconvenience -- and more danger -- for pedestrians and cyclists, Greenbelt resident Matthew Johnson said at the hearing.

"Moving more cars through Greenbelt's interior is more important than all the other goals of the plan," Johnson said. "If you want to make it more pleasant to be a pedestrian, you don't widen roads."

Project planner Chad Williams said county law and transportation adequacy requirements make some widening necessary, especially at intersections. "Otherwise, the plan does recognize that there are alternatives to widening the roadways," he said.

For those in nearby College Park, the designated "North Core" area next to the Metro station is drawing complaints. The plan allows for buildings of up to 20 stories, which some residents and officials say will block out the sun in the morning and increase noise pollution.

"The highest I had heard about was 18 stories, so it was a bit of a surprise," said College Park City Councilman Patrick Wojahn. "It almost seems like adding insult to injury."

Williams said that 20 stories would be built only if a major employer or federal agency came to the area. Otherwise, he said, buildings would be capped at 12 stories -- which is the maximum the College Park City Council had asked for.

Wojahn said he was open to a federal agency relocating to Greenbelt, but not if it would hurt the nearby communities. "It's a nice neighborhood, and we'd like to keep it that way," he said.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner