Dernoga Lets JPI West Through Relatively Unscathed

College Park West - The Jefferson

Just when we were about to post another scathing criticism of County Councilman Tom Dernoga (this time about his hold up of the JPI West project), he let JPI West (aka “The Jefferson”) go forward. After an 11th hour skimming of 20 units off the approved 220 units yesterday, Dernoga let the project proceed relatively intact. Maybe he’s turned a new leaf since Mazza. We know for sure that his misjudgment on that project scared developers away from more than one potential College Park project in his district north of 193. Thanks Mr. Dernoga for seeing the urgent need for College Park revitalization that we do.

11 thoughts on “Dernoga Lets JPI West Through Relatively Unscathed”

  1. Does anyone (Mr Caitlin?) know if all of these new developments along Rte 1 are going to be built so that at some point in the future it will be easy for them to adapt to underground utilities should we be so fortunate to get that as a part of Rte 1 reconstruction? It would be great if we have that kind of foresight. That way, if/when the time comes, these buildings can hook up to underground utilities at minimal expense. Just a thought. I know the undergrounding thing is “pie in the sky” but you cant blame a guy for dreaming.

  2. It will take a miracle to find the funds to underground utilities on Route 1. The transformers, the high voltage wires, the fiber optic cable will be amost impossible to bury under the sidewalk given spacing requirements. We are talking about 110 poles on Route 1 from the Northgate to the Beltway that would have to be removed. I suspect the cost is now well over $50 million. The only hope I see if it the corridor becomes a large TIF district where most of the cost of undergrounding is an eligible use of TIF dollars.

  3. What if we “pitched” to Doug Duncan and President Mote to explore some form of creative financing partnership with The Univ and some alums? The ROI could be well worth it. We could propose leveraging the University’s Bond rating through the U Md Foundation and partnering with some alums we have on Wall Street to issue greatly discounted muni bonds. Everyone talks about how theyd like to see it. A lot – and I do mean A LOT of passion on this very topic. It hits home for a lot of people. If we connect with that maybe, just maybe? I thought the guess-timates were around 20-30 mil per mile. I know a couple of alums w/ Wall St I-banks who would probably listen.

  4. Go for it kevin. seems like very few people are going to feel very passionate about burying wires in front of car dealerships and tattoo parlors at this point. We can barely get political leaders to approve dead-obvious projects like this one, unfortunately.

  5. With the large amount of development along Route 1, the utilities will be undergrounded only if the reviewers of the developments find the backbone to apply the current zoninb plan. Unfortunately as I read the detailed site plan (I haven’t seen the most recent documents) the developer of the Jefferson was let off the hook on undergrounding the electrical utilities with a provision for 4 utility poles provided as an exception to the zoning requirements. If the city and county reviewers continue to give developers a pass on these requirements College Park will continue to look like “Beltsville South” or Landover. Some of us do feel passionate about this as a quality of life issue.

  6. Its interesting – people see it as an issue, feel it is important, and yet just throw up their hands and say “ah, it will never happen, its too expensive”

    David, I need to start bringing you to some meetings with us older alums – you wouldnt believe how often this issue comes up. In one meeting there was so much energy and people were getting so fired up on the issue that it almost made you feel like a bunch of wealthy alums were ready to whip out the checkbooks and say “whats it gonna take?” (to underground the utilities) because they have a bigger picture view and see the benefit / the ROI

    If you are in the alumni association then you should have received an invitation to make suggestions on the Campus’ Strategic Plan that is currently being developed. The Strategic Planning survey asked very specific questions about the campus’ future and even included East Campus / Redevelopment

    I know a group of folks who were going to list Rte 1 reconstruction – INCLUDING undergrounding utilities – from the Beltway to the southern border of CP as a strategic imperative

  7. Undergrounding utilities is very expensive and I am not sure that doing it piecemeal over many years is viable. The best time to do it is when the road is rebuilt, as the poles and wires would have to be moved at a great cost anyway. Just relocating poles and wires is a $10+ million cost. All poles are not created equal, some single poles have a $2 million cost to underground which would actually make some properties impossible to redevelop without financial assistance. The need is for a fund to assist in the payment of undergrounding costs in a section by section approach. It is also important to get the State to do the final design and engineering work for rebuilding Route 1 so that any work that is done dones not have to be redone at a later date.

    JPI West will underground its four poles as per its approval, though it expects (needs?) the County to authorize redevelopment tax credits for so doing. A small office project at Route 1 and Edgewood Road was charged a small fee in lieu and not required to underground utilities. Terrapin Station moved the poles and utilities to the rear of the property, behind the building. Princess Garden Suites only had a pole to service the near door Exxon Station. Apparently PEPECO will relocate the pole to the Exxon property at no cost to the hotel.

  8. While I have not had a chance to examine all the issues surrounding “undergrounding” the utilities along Rt 1, I would echo the comments made by others in this thread that it would seem to be very shortsighted to undertake the overall cost of redeveloping this corridor with new buildings, improved road, etc, and still leave it looking like something out of the 1940’s with power/telephone lines along the sides. Surely, it might be possible to get the state, county and business community together to examine how this might be done as part of the overall plan, including how the costs might be defrayed. In the long run, I think the costs will be small compared to the ROI achieved by cleaning up this eyesore.

  9. I know that Dave Daddio and I have “disagreements” about development. I support the redevelopment, but I find that the developers are always busy trying to get waivers from defined standards and those desperate for any development are willing to take whatever is offered. I simply cannot support such an approach.

    Part of this issue arises with respect to the undergrounding of utilities. College Park and the Planning Board agreed to waive this requirement for pretty much every project along Route 1. I have refused to accept that decision.

    At least North of Route 193, I am working to make the undergrounding issue work. It won’t be easy, but hopefully we can work it north piece by piece. JPI (East & West) and Mazza’s commercial portion are to be undergrounding. The little Hollywood Station office building at Edgewood is paying a token fee into a fund. I have essentially agreed to try to obtain a revitalization tax credit for the JPI pieces to make the project financially feasible. The idea is to add those savings to the same utility fund.

    Ultimately, as Route 1 is funded for upgrade by the State – the first piece is in the special session financing package – we can get this effort incorporated into the upgrade program. Meanwhile, I will continue to push to get the utilities underground (or at least get underground vaults built to enable it) on a project-by-project basis.

    And, I might expect Route 1 re-developers to adhere to some standards of excellence. … for which Dave will pillory me in public. But, that’s ok – it’s good for the soul.

  10. Thanks Tom. I’ve always held that we need to be realistic about our expectations for development. If we want to get more from developers, let’s do it in an up front and proactive way. We’re talking about more than undergrounding wires here of course. There is an important distinction between expecting excellence and getting any development at all. I’m glad to see your actions are starting to incorporate the middle ground and pursue that middle ground in timely fashion that is in line with the community’s expectations for revitilzation.

    If that doesn’t sound like an outright “thank you”, then that’s the best I can do at the moment. I’d rather not pillory anyone. Let’s never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  11. Fair comment and more praise than I’m used to.

    However, having spent 20 years representing civic groups and environmental groups (a fair share of NIMBY’s) who had development projects foisted on their community that they found objectionable, I have deep-seated skepticism of promises made. I fully agree that there is “an important distinction between expecting excellence and getting any development”. However, we rarely have “the perfect be[ing] the enemy of the good.” It is more the “average” or “mundane” that is promised to be “perfect”.

    There is a long history of this County accepting second best willingly, or claiming to accept first rate when everyone knows that the promises are hollow. I don’t want to impede redevelopment at all, but I also don’t want to accept whatever someone brings just because it is “something.”

    But, criticism is a good thing. It makes people think and it makes decision makers evaluate (and possibly justify) their decisions.

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