Not since the Washington Redskins wanted to build a stadium in Landover has a Prince George's County zoning issue been so contentious as a proposed development in Riverdale.
The County Council on Monday will hold an evidentiary hearing about a proposed Whole Foods and mixed-use development, in which developers, county zoning officials and citizens will have an opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine one another's testimony. Lawyers expect the hearing to take days.
It's the first time the council, which is called the District Council when meeting on zoning issues, has had to hold an evidentiary hearing on a zoning matter since the Redskins sought to move their stadium to Prince George's in the mid-1990s.
Not even National Harbor, the county's development jewel, underwent this kind of scrutiny during its zoning appeal.
"It's usually the most tedious part of the process, being in front of the hearing examiner and the people's zoning counsel," said Chip Reed, an attorney for the Cafritz family, developers of the Riverdale site. "It's not an abnormal thing, but it's occurred this way, in front of the District Council, just one other time."
Currently only residential development is allowed at the site. To build a 37-acre development along Route 1, where Whole Foods would anchor a mix of retail space, office buildings and housing, the developer requested a change to mixed-use zoning.
Three of four municipalities that would be affected by the development have voiced their support. Only College Park voted to oppose the development.
The city fears traffic from a 37-acre development along Route 1 would overwhelm an already congested road, according to City Councilman Robert Day.
Monday's hearing will have the look and feel of a trial, Reed said. And even after what could be days of back-and-forth testimony, Reed expects the council to take the issue under advisement, giving them more time to go over the evidence and take a vote later.
The Cafritz family is supported by County Executive Rushern Baker, who wants to deliver Prince George's the county's first Whole Foods.
"An opportunity to land a Whole Foods opens up the opportunity for other retailers with similar demographics they're trying to reach to come into the county," said Aubrey Thagard, the county's assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development.