A New Logo and Slogan for College Park

City’s marketing plan consultant idFive came to last week’s Council work session and presented four brand concept proposals and asked which, if any, of the those the City should pursue. idFive may solicit more opinions from other focus groups in the city to make a final decision.

For the past several months, idfive asked more than a hundred people in the course of its research. It was a diverse survey outreach effort that was as varied in form as it was in the types of people who responded to them. A sampling of respondents included current city residents, residents of nearby jurisdictions, City and County Councilmembers, neighborhood association representatives, State Senators and Delegates, local educators, small business owners, commercial developers, University of Maryland (UMD) faculty and staff, and many more.

Please see below the four brand concepts idFive presented to the Council.

A smart place to live
Small City, Big possibilities
Smart, Naturally
College Park, Maryland

weBike Plans to Expand, Develop Electronic Bike Lock

At the end of the month, the folks at the weBike are planning to expand to a new university campus, and currently they are hosting a crowdfunding campaign to develop the prototype of an electronic bike lock that lets you rent and return a bike anywhere in a community.

Here’s a short 90 second video that explains what they are trying to do and a link to our campaign page. In addition, please check this recently published article in Huffington Post about the need for cost-effective bike sharing.

Also, please check out weBike’s campaign page and share the news during their 45-day effort to make shift happen: http://www.launcht.org/campaign/detail/126.

[Fazlul Kabir is a Council member of City of College Park (District 1). You can read his daily blog at KabirCares.org]

City Council Poised to Appeal Cafritz Development Decision

Cafritz development at Riverdale Park

In tonight’s regular meeting, the Council will vote on whether to appeal to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court of the final decision of the District Council to approve Zoning Map Amendment A-1 0018 for the Cafritz property development.

On July 12, 2012, the District Council took final action on this case and on July 18, 2012 mailed the written order of the Council to all persons of record. The deadline for appealing the decision is August 17, 2012.

The approved project includes the rezoning of 35.71 acres of property in the Town of Riverdale Park from R-55 (single-family residential) to M-U-T-C (MixedUse-Town Center) and amends the 2004 Approved Town of Riverdale Park Mixed-Use Town Center Zone Development Plan. The project, as approved, includes up to 1,915,320 million square feet of mixed-use development including retail, office, residential and hotel.

While good arguments could be made in regards to a few legal and technical issues in this case, the ultimate outcome may include a remand back to the District Council and then to the Planning Board at which time they would correct all of the defects. Based on the original 7-2 votes, it is likely that the project would again be approved. Also, the delay may cause the loss of the Whole Foods, something many residents may not prefer. Among other things, the Council will consider a modest legal cost ($25,000) and its impact on the relationship with our neighboring city Riverdale Park.

[Fazlul Kabir is a Council member of City of College Park (District 1). You can read his daily blog at KabirCares.org]

Route 1 Event Seeks to Educate Residents about Redevelopment Opportunities

Route 1, College Park

According to City’s Economic Development Coordinator Michael Stiefvater, the City is working on an event concerning redevelopment opportunities along Route 1 and they want to begin publicizing it in order to give everyone some advanced notice.

The agenda is a work in progress, but the basic premise for the event is to educate residents on the current status of these opportunities, while collecting feedback on their vision for these sites.

There will be presentations by the Planning and Economic Development staff along with plenty of time for open discussion and questions. Here are additional details for the event:

Date: Saturday, November 19, 2011
Time: 8:30am to 12pm
Place: City Council Chambers


City’s First Skate Park to Open Early Next Year

Rendering of the proposed Sunnyside Skate Park

Back in March this year, the City Council approved the design of College Park’s first skate park. According to City’s planning department, if permits are issued (as expected), construction of the facility should begin next month. The site of the project is within the confines of Sunnyside Park on Rhode Island Avenue just north of Edgewood Road in north College Park. Construction is anticipated to take 60 days. The City’s planning department published the final design late last week to its website.

On Mar 22, 2010, the City awarded Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks (http://www.grindline.com/) a contract to design and build a skateboard park in Sunnyside Neighborhood Park in north College Park. The City held two public hearings on the park, one in April and another in June last year.

In October last year, the park’s design went through a few major revisions, after receiving concerns from M-NCPPC and some residents on children’s safety in the proposed park. According to the new design, the park’s bowl is much shallower (four feet) compared to the previous one, which was more more than seven feet deep. The new design is expected to attract more beginning skaters and would be more safe for the community and easier to maintain. There are also an addition of a stair element to the new design.

M-NCPPC continues to have concems about maintenance and has requested that the City provide assistance. The City Manager and Public Works Director indicated that supplemental maintenance could be provided as part of the City’s routine park maintenance program.

Speaking of the park, Kennis Termini, a long time resident of north College Park, and a member of the park design committee, said: “I look to the Sunnyside Skate Park as being a positive outreach to our youth community that is local, safe and widely supported.”

[Fazlul Kabir lives in north College Park and writes a daily blog at http://KabirCares.org]

September College Park Development Update

Be sure to see the September College Park Development update. The Development Update is a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the City of College Park Planning, Community and Economic Development Department covering development activity in the City. It covers status updates to the Maryland Book Exchange redevelopment, M-Square, and East Campus proposals among others. To subscribe, please feel free to contact Robert Riker at (240) 487-3544 or internplanning@collegeparkmd.gov.

The Varsity at College Park to Open on Sept 6


The Varsity at College Park (8150 Baltimore Ave) is finally ready to open for this fall semester.

Potomac Holdings, the owners, will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony to launch the property on Tuesday, September 6, 1 – 3 p.m.

Speakers will include Dr. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh, Prince George’s County vice chair Eric Olson, and Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker, III.

In addition to speakers, there will be guided tours and refreshments available at Looney’s Pub and tours of the building. Please RSVP to Kate Kuhlman at kate@bendurepr.com by September 3.

North College Park Residents Debate New County Redistricting Map

August 13 Redistricting Hearing

Residents of north College Park are debating a new county redistricting map that proposes the entire city be part of one single county district (Dist 3). The debate amongst residents’ mainly revolves around the identity and development issues in the northern part of the city.

Currently, north College Park is part of county District 1, whereas the rest of the city is part of District 3. A map showing the boundary changes can be found here.

Like the City of College Park, which went through its own redistricting process recently, Prince George’s County is required to revisit its district map every 10 years following the national census. The State of Maryland is going through its congressional redistricting process currently.

Supporters of the proposed redistricting plan think that a single County district will give College Park a larger share of attention of a County Councilmember and there will be a unified voice for the city. They also believe that the northern and southern parts of city have far more in common than NCP does with Laurel.

it will be simpler to coordinate meetings and action items with a single Councilmember, no one will have to wonder (should they forget) who the County representative is” – said one resident supporting the new plan.

Opponents of the new map disagree. They believe two voices on the County Council would make our City’s position stronger. For example, north College Park City Council member (District 1) Christine Nagle thinks residents will be best served by retaining the current Council representation. “The current representation provides increased communication opportunity and has been beneficial for North College Park. “ – Nagle said.

Nagle’s counterpart in District 1 (city council), Patrick Wojahn is not so sure. Wojahn said he has not made any official stands on the redistricting, but he wants residents to “to give this [new plan] some thought”.

While Mr. Wojahn thinks north College Park shares some traits with Beltsville and Laurel, he thinks cities north of College Park would never be so concerned about the interests of North College Park residents.

If the interests of Laurel residents were to somehow come in conflict with the interests of North College Park residents, I think just about any County Councilmember who represents both areas, no matter how well-intentioned, would give more weight to the interests expressed by the Laurel residents” – said Mr. Wojahn.

That sentiment is shared by former north College park council member Mark Shroder. Mr. Shroder, who is now the president of north College Park Citizen Association, thinks College Park has a lot of experience of disagreeing with, and sometimes being drowned out by Beltsville.

If you adopt the northern boundary of College Park as the southern boundary of the district, the County Council member will always represent Beltsville against you in these cases; but may be conflicted if the boundary shifts south. Even conflicted, the Council member will usually side with Beltsville.” – Shroder argues.

North College Park resident Stephen Jascourt also believes that (NCP) residents “are much closer aligned with the rest of College Park than with Laurel, by far, and with Beltsville it is a close call – may vary by issue”.

However, Jascourt says he is of mixed minds because of north College Park’s interests. “the advantage of influencing 2 Council members is a considerable advantage, and as long as North College Park is proactive and has people who will be proactive, then I would expect we would continue to have some influence with the Council member who is often likely to come from Laurel.” – said Jascourt.

Some residents are opposing the new plan because of their support for the District 1 county councilwoman Mary Lehman. If the new plan goes forward, Lehman will no longer represent north College Park residents.

One of these residents is Kennis Termini. Termini thinks Lehman and her staff have been extremely responsive and helpful in addressing various issues for the community at large. “[Lehman] does not subscribe to ‘double talking’ and has always had an open door policy to her constituents.” – Termini asserts.

Mary Cook, former District 4 City council member also wants to remain in District 1 with Mary Lehman. Cook thinks that North College Park has never received the attention it deserves from the City. “The majority of its resources are used/spent south of 193 (District 3) I believe that by remaining in District 1, there would be the necessary checks and balances to help all of NCP prosper.” – Cook argues.

Unlike Cook, the current District 4 council member Afzali says he is not going to advocate for either position. “North CP seems to have no clear consensus on what they want in terms of having CP in a single district or two districts.” – said Afzali.

Given the fairly even split in the community over this issue, the City Council decided last week not to take any position on redistricting and to let the chips fall where they may.

The County’s Redistricting Commission held a public hearing on July 28, where residents from both sides testified. The County Council will schedule another hearing on August 13 (Saturday ) from 10 am-noon at the Council Hearing Room in the County Administration Building at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Dr., Upper Marlboro.

It’s imperative that we act quickly and that as many people show up on Saturday as possible.” – Cook asks her fellow residents to attend the Aug 13 hearing.

Fazlul Kabir lives in north College Park. You can read his daily community blog at http://KabirCares.org

Eminent Domain of #1 Liquor in Question

#1 Liquor at University View

With the city council election only a few months away, and an increasing number of residents are voicing their opposition, the council may soon vote on a motion that will permanently put a stop to the negotiation to purchase #1 Liquor: College Park’s most infamous homestead holdout. The small parcel (8200 Baltimore Avenue) is sandwiched in between University View and the Varsity high rises, has been a point of contention for the council for years. In December 2009, the City Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate the acquisition of the property and turn it into a “pocket park” for general public use. The purchase would be funded by College Park’s allocation of the state’s localside Program Open Space (POS) money.

City council members who supported the motion in 2009, argued that the property was “an eyesore.” They also said that the purchase would be an opportunity “to improve that portion of Route 1 corridor“. The 2009 resolution allows the City to pursue the acquisition using all “actions necessary to proceed with condemnation if negotiations are not successful.” This meant eminent domain, or compulsory purchase by the government against the will of the landowner, was on the table if the store owner refused to make a deal.

However, opposition to the eminent domain option from the residents in recent days have forced some council members to soften or even reverse their support. One of these council members is Patrick Wojahn (Dist 1), who has come under fierce scrutiny for his original support for eminent domain from a small but vocal group of residents in his north College Park constituency.

I was on the fence initially about eminent domain, and after hearing what residents have had to say, I oppose it.” -wrote Mr. Wojahn in an email to his north College Park newsgroup.

However, Mr. Wojahn’s reversal on eminent domain option did not completely please the group of residents; they want the Council to stop negotiation with the #1 Liquor owner altogether.

The City should stop going after this particular business.  You [Mr. Wojahn] and Mr. Catlin keep saying the City should continue because the owner is still willing to negotiate [to sell]” – charged one resident.

I have not seen anyone on the council move to amend this item be removed” – continued the resident.

During the recent budget worksession, this topic was brought up and the City Manager (Mr. Nagro) said the only way to stop the negotiation would be for the Mayor and Council to do another vote to “unauthorize” it.

Mr. Wojahn’s counterpart in District 1, Councilmember Nagle, who has been a vocal opponent to the #1 Liquor purchase from the beginning,  has recently done just that. She has asked the city to unauthorize the City Manager from pursuing any further negotiations to obtain the property (arms-length or otherwise). The council will vote on that motion in next Tuesday’s (May 24) regular council session.

In the mean time, the debate on the property deal is intensifying. Most opponents to the idea of acquiring the property argue that “uglinesss” should never be the reason for purchasing the property.

.. if you want to get rid of it, why don’t you get rid of town hall or that vacant building that is an eyesore between Burger King and Taco Bell (on Rt. 1).” – said one long time residents.

If we are looking to make the city look good, there is nothing on US 1, in my opinion, from the IKEA corridor on down except the University of Maryland that looks attractive to anyone wanting to relocate to the city.” – continued the resident.

Council member Robert Catlin (Dist 2), who sponsored the 2009 motion disagrees. Catlin thinks location, and not the look, should be a major factor why the City should buy the property.

(The location of the property) is great because of the large population that will be living or passing through there.  It can be a place for people to buy food from the adjacent food establishments and enjoy eating outside or interact with people (like Dupont Circle). ” – said Mr. Catlin.

In addition to location, Mr. Catlin argues that  the property would make for a good bus superstop location, as it the southernmost point that southbound buses can stop to pick up passengers. He also points out that the current business owner is not the same business owner that was there when University View was built.

The current liquor store owner is free to lease space elsewhere in College Park. ” – he argued.

In response to the argument that the City will be losing precious tax dollars from a legitimate business, Mr Catlin said: “The $1,500 in revenue derived from the store is insignificant in the city’s budget, especially when considering that the redevelopment here generates hundreds of times more revenue than was generated here before redevelopment.

What could we buy [with POS money], only church property?” – asks Mr. Catlin.

Some residents want the City to spend the fund to purchase the property in the design and rehabilitation of Duvall Field project in north College Park. The City originally received $300K as part of State’s Program Open Space (POS) fund, however it could not use the money due to a related fund from a Greenbelt south core development project.

Others have a different perspective on how the purchase should be viewed,

Program Open Space is neither a highway beautification fund nor a blight reduction tool. The park idea is a farce. A fraction of an acre ‘pocket park’ on the #1 Liquor site will not meet the city’s conservation or public recreation goals, especially in light of the fact that the 5-acre North Gate Park (another POS project) is about to open just to the south.” – said the Rethink College Park editor David Daddio.

Daddio thinks the North Gate Park parcel would make an excellent location for a bus super stop for the emerging North Gate District.

Indeed POS funds could be used for the purchase; but let’s not pretend that there is a park deficit in the city.” – said Daddio.

Though it is unclear at this moment how the Council will vote next week, intense lobbying by the opposing residents may sway the minds of the council members. If there is a tie, Mayor Fellows will cast his vote to break the tie. Mr. Fellows who supported the original 2009 motion is also undecided.

We have not established what that cost to the City might be.  I do understand the concerns of a significant number of residents, and they are a factor in my consideration. ” – said Mr. Fellows.

In the mean time, opponents to the purchase plan are hoping that the upcoming November election could swing the Council decision next week.

On Greenbelt Sector Plan, Krouse Asks Residents to Get Involved

Observing the Balloons
John Krouse at the 2007 Greenbelt development balloon demonstration (RethinkCollegePark)

Former city councilmember John Krouse recently gave us an interview on why he is so troubled by the proposed Greenbelt development and why he thinks north College Park residents should get more involved in the process.

Along with other City officials, he is organizing a town hall meeting this Thursday (7 pm, March 31, 2011) at Davis Hall. Please spread tthe word and try to attend.

In terms of proposed Greenbelt development, there seems to be a lot of ambiguity. Can you please elaborate this?

The process of discussion and planning really only ends when something is built (and even then, it’s never really ‘over’).   So far, nothing has been built.

Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights and College Park (including NCPCA) all supported the 2001 Sector Plan.  Since that time, the County supported a different ‘vision’ for the area near the station that did not conform with the Sector Plan that we all worked on, and agreed with.

The approved conceptual site plan of the Developer allowed much taller buildings than the Sector Plan, and did not conform to the step-back in building heights required by the Sector Plan.  Thus, the conceptual plan allowed much greater sight impacts and reflected noise impacts on the community.  It also proposed greater density, and had greater traffic impacts.

The issue of the enormous parking garage at the end of Lackawanna Street was another major problem.  Metro insisted upon construction of it’s own garage, just south of the station, which ended up as a proposed building about the size of the Washington Post Plant (!)

Is that the kind of building that we all want to see at the end of Lackawanna Street Street… and all the way down to Iroquios Street and beyond?

If not, then we might have to be involved in a process to ‘encourage’ the construction of smaller garages on the property, and less enormous buildings right next to our homes.

And there were other problems, too.  It’s a long list, really.

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