A recently approved zoning plan for the Adelphi Road Purple Line station passed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission could pave the way for additional deforestation of Guilford Woods.
The new Adelphi Road-UMGC/UMD Purple Line Station Area Sector Plan determines what can be built near the new Adelphi Road station for the next 25 years, according to the M-NCPPC website.
The plan consists of amendments the planning board and county council made based on public testimony and includes new zoning updates, Scott Rowe, master planner at M-NCPPC in Prince George’s County planning department, said.
But the new zoning updates differ from Prince George’s County’s Climate Action Plan, which helps the county reach its goal to reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent by 2030. The sector plan could result in the deforestation of Guilford Woods, according to Dr. Amy Sapkota, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland and director of CONSERVE Center of Excellence and UMD Global Stewards National Science Foundation.
The Climate Action Plan is a broader set of policies the county tries to include as it creates sector plans, such as the Adelphi station sector plan, Rowe said. Additionally, to new development, there will be changes to the zoning map to make the area surrounding the Purple Line more walkable, he added.
Utility lines for the Purple Line were relocated on Campus Drive in front of Stamp Student Union. They were completed during the summer and the sidewalks were replaced.
The Purple Line is relocating utility lines in the next few years on the campus and the surrounding area including water and sewer within the University Boulevard corridor from Adelphi Road to Piney Branch Road. Electrical relocations were completed at the University of Global Campus and this university.
In the upcoming weeks, the eastbound overpass near University Boulevard and Northwest Branch will be replaced for the Purple Line. Traffic will be diverted onto the newly completed westbound space.
“One of the biggest climate goals is to get people out of their cars by creating housing and job opportunities and educational opportunities within [the] walking, biking or transit district,” Rowe said.
However, in terms of the planning concerns for the sector plan, the current plan does not include areas of Campus Drive such as the University of Maryland and UMD Lot 1, Sapkota said.
But the Adelphi Road sector plan is a complicated issue because there are different competing plans and projects, such as the Western Gateway project that entails building graduate housing on Guilford Woods, Sapkota explained.
“There was a tremendous outpouring of community opposition to the plan,” Sapkota said. “Despite the community opposition, during the revision process of the plan, there were very little, almost no revisions that were made to address the concerns of the community.”
However, Rowe said when the county has a plan they listen to different voices in the community.
“We understand how community groups can really organize and be a powerful voice for change,” Rowe said. “At the end of the day, as professional planners, we had to make the recommendation of what’s best for Prince George’s County.”
Marc Simon, a Hyattsville resident, said the Purple Line is a great addition to regional transit, but he has a problem with the way Adelphi Road sector plan was developed.
“People who have more of a political interest than an urban planning interest were in charge of setting those boundaries,” Simon said.
Simon thinks developers don’t necessarily need to construct high density developments around each transit station. Instead, areas such as Campus Drive and Adelphi could be developed to enhance public access to a natural amenity such as Guilford Woods.
“None of the people who were in the efforts to save the woods are against development,” Simon said. “We’re all for development with one qualification: that it is sensitive to the environment, appropriately located and if on public land, had the requisite response to public input.”
Sapkota said she would like the county to update the Adelphi Road sector plan and support new affordable housing near the Purple Line, but it does not have to come at the cost of an urban forest.
“We don’t have to choose,” Sapkota said. “We can both preserve our urban forest and we can support climate-friendly development in the form of redevelopment of already deforested areas near the purple line.”