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Council Takes No Action on Kiplinger Rezoning

Without the blessing of the Hyattsville City Council, property owners weigh options for next moves.

Citing concerns over transparency and timeliness, the Hyattsville City Council took no action on a motion to approve a proposed rezoning request for the Kiplinger property which could pave the way for a significant redevelopment of the 3400 block of East West Highway. 

"Most of us first heard of this between Friday and today, and this is a proposal which has the potential to increase the city's population 10 percent in one fell swoop," said Councilor Shani Warner (Ward 2) echoing concerns raised by Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3). "I don't think anyone is in a position to say, 'okay, go ahead' by the deadline we have."

The property owners had hoped to secure the council's blessing before today to include in an application to be submitted to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission seeking approval of an early conceptual site plan (think of it like a rough sketch of what could be built on the site) required for the rezoning. Attorneys for the property owners had requested that the M-NCPPC include the item on their next agenda. Without the city council's approval, that plan may have to be revisited.

"The case was on the tentative agenda for the planning board for Feb. 28, the property needs to be posted 30 days before that, so they [the M-NCPPC] like to have all the comments in by then," said William Shipp, attorney for the property owners. "But we don't know if we have any different schedule yet. We have to keep working with the city and working with the county."

Since 1960, the property has been owned by the trade publication company Kiplinger Washington Editors. The 11.6 acres of land and the 20,000 square foot building on it was once a hub of the local printing and publishing industry. At its height, more than 1,000 workers earned their keep at the facility according to Shipp. The Washington Post still operates a newspaper distribution facility there, which, aside from once aptly-named Editor's Park Drive, is the only remaining vestige of the site's ties to the printing and publishing industries. 

The property is currently zoned as "commercial-shopping center". The property owners want to rezone the property for "mixed-use-transit" oriented developments. 

Clouding last night's discussion of the project was confusion about the scale of the proposed redevelopments. Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4), along with city resident Jen Kubit expressed concern during the meeting that a tall, 12 story building on the site would seem out of character in the neighborhood. 

However, according to Jim Chandler, director of Hyattsville's Department of Community and Economic Development, was confused where this idea of proposed a mammoth building was coming from.

"I see nothing that says 12 stories in their proposals," said Chandler. 

Chandler went on to note that the property lies in an area of the Prince George's Plaza Transit District Overlay Zone which requires that buildings be built to heights between four and 12 stories. 

"They obviously have latitude within that four to 12 range," said Chandler. "But if they are proposing a four to six story building in their conceptual site plan, and later in the detailed site plan they come back with a 12 story plan, that will trigger a review of their conceptual site plan."

Such an action would be costly to the property owners, said Chandler

While specific building plans have not yet been developed for the site, property owners have circulated a proposed conceptual site plan which calls for the development of an 870 unit apartment building with a parking deck and 34,211 square feet of commercial and retail space. 

How that would all fit together is still in flux. The early conceptual site plan envisions the retail space on the west end of the development, facing Home Depot. Planners at the county and city level have asked the property owners to consider orienting the retail and commercial space towards East-West Highway.

HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter January 31, 2013 at 07:01 PM
This development would be a huge improvement to the area and is exactly what PG plaza needs. Why wouldn't you want 12 story buildings in your central commercial district? The Towers at University Town Center are 16+ stories tall! and they are right across the street. The three large Brutalist buildings are each 9 stories, The Belcrest development has a few tall buildings planned as well. This seems like sabotage on the part of the council. I'm especially ashamed at the ignorance displayed by "Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4), along with city resident Jen Kubit who expressed concern during the meeting that a tall, 12 story building on the site would seem out of character in the neighborhood." It wouldn't be out of character for what the neighborhood should be and for what developers have been trying to do for years. Walkable with high density near a metro, what is so bad about that?
Michael Theis January 31, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Perhaps I could parse the scale arguments a bit further. Those who are critical of a large scale residential development tie the argument to concerns about overloading the area schools currently in the area, Nicholas Orem Middle, and the under-construction West Hyattsville Elementary School. Traffic concerns are also brought into the mix. However, the property owners don't seem inclined to build to the maximum allowable height in the overlay zone.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter January 31, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Well, the city could use the extra generated tax revenue to compensate for the increase in population. If traffic concerns were at the top of Hyattsville's list of important things, why would they put parking along route 1 and build a new parking garage? Why would they allow a huge development like EYA open shop along route 1? How many additional residents are going to be living in the Arts district when it gets fully built out? It seems to me that the West side of town is being discriminated against, despite being obviously superior in terms of land availability and public transportation infrastructure. How many large scale development projects are they going to shoot down? All of the more upscale areas of DC metro area are more built out. PG will never be able to compete without the investment coming from development projects and the associated increase in property values and tax revenues.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter January 31, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Just Google the Prince George's Plaza Transit District Overlay Zone and tell me that a large square block 800 ft from the metro shouldn't be zoned mixed use? Even if the city counsel isn't involved in a conspiracy to sabotage development, and they truly just need more time to look things over, I have to say that the hassle that people have to go through to get things off the ground around here is unnecessary. It seems to me that anything is better than a 90% vacant factory (except surface parking). And with as many vacant retail spaces as we have, isn't it obvious that we need more residential?
Adelphi Sky February 17, 2013 at 03:45 AM
If I hear one more argument abut density and traffic. Look at all the other touted and desirable places in the Washington Region. Alexandria. Roslyn, Silver Spring, Tysons, etc., etc. What gives Hyattsville? I'm not saying you have to build 30 story skyscrapers, but come on. How long will you fumble through progress while Silver Spring continues to leave you behind? Cut the red tape and the grandstanding and let's make Hyattsville worth investing in. Sheesh. THe property is within walking distance to the metro. That's the point. The proximity alleviates the need for vehicular use. Duh! If I can walk across the street for virtually any service I need, do you think I would use my car? Hyattsville should be a lot further than where it is right now.

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