The College Park City Council expressed environmental concerns around Prince George’s County’s sector plan, which forecasts new high-density development in and around Guilford Woods, at Tuesday’s work session.
The Adelphi Road-UMGC-UMD Purple Line Station Area Sector Plan will dictate zoning around an upcoming Purple Line station near the intersection of University Boulevard and Adelphi Road. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission officials say the plan would create a new walkable, accessible and mixed-use neighborhood near the university in an effort to increase density around Purple Line stations.
But in December, some community members expressed backlash toward the proposed plan, which would deforest part of Guilford Woods if no changes are implemented.
The county’s current plan aims to preserve just 15 acres of natural areas while also implementing new streets and “floating parks” — small green spaces — throughout the area. It would also zone land in favor of new development that would leverage its proximity to this university and the Adelphi Road station, said Shubha Punase, project manager for the sector plan at M-NCPPC.
City officials felt the execution of the plan was misaligned with the city’s goals, especially considering current development around Route 1 and in the Discovery District.
College Park planning director Terry Schum highlighted some issues with the proposed plan, which she said would develop the Adelphi Road area more heavily than anticipated. She also felt it was a “missed opportunity” to not fully explore the environmental impacts new development might bring.
“Not all areas can have a ton of vertical, mixed-use and high-intensity development. Our communities just can’t support it,” Schum said.
District 3 council member John Rigg noted that he was not against transit-oriented development, but said it was difficult to support the plan as written. Development should be implemented within the context of the city’s current construction and stormwater management issues, particularly around Guilford Run, he said.
“We’re in favor of density where it makes sense,” Rigg said. “The closer you get to that watershed, the more nervous we become.”
District 3 council member Stuart Adams also pointed out concerns of stormwater management, especially given increased development in an area that already experiences downstream flooding.
Adams further took issue with new proposed interior roads that will run through Guilford Woods and Maryland Hillel, which he said directly conflicted with the plan’s goal of preserving natural areas.
“Let’s not just say it on a slide — let’s do it,” Adams said.
Guilford Woods is not currently a designated park or open space, Punase said, making it difficult for M-NCPPC to preserve the area, especially because the area was previously approved for development with the now paused Western Gateway project.
“We are trying to do a balancing act … within the limits of the tools we have,” Punase said.
District 2 council member Susan Whitney felt it would be worthwhile to explore including the Lot 1 parking lot into the plan. Utilizing an impervious surface for development instead would allow for Guilford Woods to continue to provide environmental benefits like mitigating the effects of stormwater runoff and urban heat islands, she said.
“If this plan moves forward as written, it basically ignores hundreds of submitted comments from people in the community in favor of preserving Guilford Woods,” she said.
The city has until Feb. 2 to flesh out its concerns and present them in written comment to the Prince George’s County Council. A joint public hearing with the Prince George’s County Planning Board and County Council will be held Jan. 18.