Laurel Residents Rally Against Planned Development

Residents near Laurel Garden apartments say development would be disruptive.

Laurel residents rallied against the expansion of a planned apartment redevelopment during a Monday night City Council meeting, citing concerns with traffic congestion and its impact on the community.

Laurel Reality Co., the developer for redevelopment of Laurel Gardens apartments, is proposing to spend about $10 million to demolish the existing complex and build garden apartments and townhomes.

Planners said they are asking the council to approve the construction of 114 units, up from the 96 units that were originally planned. The complex sits along Park Avenue, Ninth Street and Phillip Powers Drive.

But during Monday’s meeting, residents petitioned the council to put the brakes on the unit increase, contending that additional units would overwhelm narrow streets with traffic and take away from the community’s green space.

“We have concerns with the number of units in the space allowed,” said Grant Gross, a homeowner near the complex. “I believe the number of units will cause traffic problems…. Our concern is that they’re trying to build a little too much.”

Resident Andrew Jackson charged that the council rushed the plan through and didn't give the public enough time to weigh in on the development.

“It’s morphed into something that wasn’t [planned],” he said. “This thing has been railroaded at 1,000 miles an hour.”

The demolition and redevelopment of the complex would be done in three stages, said Robert DiPietro, who represented the developer and building owner. He said that the roads surrounding the building can handle the additional traffic.

Residents would be required to clear out at the start of each phase.

“Economically, [the additional units are] a good thing,” he said.

But residents living in the complex said it is one of the few communities in Laurel in which rent and utilities are under $1,000 a month and that they would like to be able to stay in the building.

Cheryl Curtis said she’s been living in the building for a year and can’t afford to pay more in rent. She said she's afraid she’ll have to leave the city if the building is demolished and higher rents are applied to the new building.

“There really isn’t a place for us in the city,” said Curtis, who works as a teacher’s aid in Laurel. “A lot of people feel like nothing can be done. It’s getting so that I can’t stay in the City of Laurel, where I truly want to be.”

DiPietro said the developer has lost money on the building for the last three years because the rent is so low. Some units, he said, are as low as $500 a month. He said he expects rates to go up once the new building is completed.

A second public hearing on the additional units will be held May 30 at the Laurel Municipal Building. Residents are invited to attend a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night at the municipal building at 7 p.m. to discuss the issue.

John S May 15, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Noted. http://www.cityoflaurel.org/content/about-laurelhistory-laurel Using the link above and scrolling down to the Mayor and City Council elections it is determined that "Robert J.DiPietro" was sworn in as Mayor of Laurel in 1978.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter May 15, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I don't know who this vocal group of residents are that are complaining about 18 extra units, but these NIMBYS need to understand that development in their area will bring value to their own homes and communities. They should realize that it will bring in additional tax revenue and help revitalize the area.
John S May 18, 2012 at 10:45 AM
http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/howard/news/community/ph-ll-laurel-gardens-0517-20120516,0,3055812.story This links to the Laurel Leader story on the May 15, 2012 Planning Commission meeting. "Robert DiPietro" is recalled by me as having been a consultant with the Greenbelt company Bozzuto Group in 2006. In 2006, a lawsuit pertaining to a Bozzuto Group development proposal filed by Ward 2 residents of Laurel was settled out of court, per media accounts recalled by me. The name "Robert DiPietro" was linked by me (in informal notes) to the discussions that resulted in the settlement.
John S May 29, 2012 at 09:06 AM
http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/howard/news/community/ph-ll-laurel-gardens-council-0510-20120508,0,1269959.story The Laurel Leader May 8, 2012 story linked to above describes the May 2, 2012 Laurel City Council "work session" in which Christian Pulley, "of the city's Department of Community Planning and Business Services", discussed the proposal. The story has quotes from Councilmembers Fred Smalls, Ed Ricks and Valerie Nicholas, as well as from former Mayor Michael Leszcz who was appointed to the Planning Commission by then Mayor Robert J. DiPietro in 1979 per my informal notes.
John S May 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/092905/laurnew235724_31897.shtml The September 29, 2005 Gazette story linked to above suggests that "Robert DiPietro" was a consultant for Bozzuto Group at that time. Also a Laurel resident is quoted as thinking this was former Mayor Robert J. DiPietro. Excerpt from September 29, 2005: "She said the fact that Robert DiPietro, a consultant speaking for Bozzuto at the hearing, is a former mayor of Laurel...." End excerpt from September 29, 2005 Gazette Some background: I gave my full name to the moderator at the October 20, 2011 Candidates Forum for a question to then mayoral candidate Mike Sarich. The question I submitted referenced Mr. Sarich's "political blog" during the timeframe of 2006 through late 2007. Former Mayor Michael Leszcz had introduced me to Mayor Craig Moe prior to their positioning themselves for the discussion. Mr. Sarich arrived late and entered with me as I had gone back to my room at the hotel for a notepad. Also I'm thinking October 20, 2011 was the day Patch commenter Peter Lewnes put an address out in a Patch comment that became an issue of sorts.


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