Tag: Prince George’s

Purple Line: How to grow without leaving folks behind

“The discussion is about how to ensure that the Purple Line is doing what it should to bring people together with jobs and services and still protect those who might not earn a lot of money, but want to benefit from the transit without being unable to afford it,” adds Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Testimony Regarding The Prince George’s County General Plan

We want to express our overall support for this outstanding document. We commend the Planning staff and Planning Board for the deliberative process that has culminated in the Plan Prince George’s 2035. This plan offers the right framework – with a few exceptions – to guide the county’s growth and development to a successful future.
We applaud the many important policies and guidance the plan puts forth including: Focusing future growth around transit stations and revitalization areas inside the Beltway; Priority Investment Districts (PIDs) – we especially commend the staff and Board for the thoughtful process to create this targeted, strategic approach to using the County’s limited resources to the greatest benefit.

RELEASE: Advocates urge Prince George’s County and state to target funds to transportation projects supporting smart growth

Prince George’s County and regional smart growth advocates sent a letter today to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker urging him to rethink transportation priorities to fulfill the County’s efforts to foster transit-oriented economic development.

Testimony Re: Southern Green Line Station Area Sector Plan and Endorsed Sectional Map Amendment

Testimony Re: Southern Green Line Station Area Sector Plan and Endorsed Sectional Map Amendment

Regrettably, the Coalition for Smarter Growth expresses its opposition to the proposed amendments to the Adopted Southern Green Line Station Area Sector Plan and Endorsed Sectional Map Amendment. While we have testified in support of many helpful bills and resolutions that advance the County’s efforts to attract high quality investments around its Metro stations, we regret that this proposed overlay, while well-intentioned, is likely to do more harm than good …

VDOT Takes Heat For Big PR Bill In Support Of Bi-County Parkway

The Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to pay the D.C.-based public relations firm Stratacomm nearly $300,000 to help the agency build public support for a controversial highway plan in Northern Virginia, according to documents obtained by a state legislator through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

State Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th), a vocal opponent of the Bi-County Parkway, a ten-mile highway that would connect Loudoun and Prince William Counties west of Dulles Airport and the Manassas battlefield, obtained the contract agreement that shows VDOT agreed to pay Stratacomm $289,228 for an array of services.

Although studied for a decade, VDOT has heavily promoted the project for only the past year, with a series of public meetings, presentations, and interviews with the news media. The public relations campaign has coincided with negotiations with the National Park Service to allow VDOT to pave over part of the western fringe of the Civil War battlefield in exchange for closing congested Rt. 234 through the battlefield. Those negotiations are nearing an end, but the partial shutdown of the federal government is delaying a final agreement.

“VDOT is saying in its scope of work that the effort will increase the credibility and trust of the Virginia Department of Transportation in the eyes of the public,” said Marshall. “If trust is lacking in VDOT, it is because of their own words and conflicting statements which they have made time and time again.”

Marshall, who is part of a group of conservative Republicans in the General Assembly fighting the Bi-County Parkway, blasted Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for the decision to retain Stratacomm. The state is in effect using tax dollars to lobby public officials and sway residents, he said.

“They are misrepresenting to the public what they are doing. That is unacceptable public policy,” said Marshall. “Sean Connaughton should be ashamed of himself. This is, in fact, stealing from the public.”

Sec. Connaughton defended the move to hire Stratacomm as a response to critics like Marshall who claimed VDOT was not performing enough public outreach.

“As a consequence, we have turned to a consultant like we do with most communications efforts to meet with stakeholders, meet with elected officials, homeowners’ associations, to help organize a communications effort,” Connaughton said.

“The whole purpose is to educate the public on what this project is, what it is not, to dispel a lot of the myths and misinformation, so we can get the public to know what we’ve been working on for the last 12 years,” he added. “This is in direct response to complaints of Delegate Marshall and others in the General Assembly… they did not think we did enough public outreach regarding this effort.”

VDOT’s internal staffing has dropped from 8,500 to 7,100 in recent years, Connaughton said, so the agency does not have adequate staff to undertake large-scale public outreach efforts. Moreover, the transportation secretary said VDOT hires outside consultants for most large projects.

Opponents seized on the contract disclosure to criticize VDOT.

“It’s one thing to do outreach to encourage the public to participate in the study process and offer their input.  That’s a legitimate use of tax dollars, but to use tax dollars to fund what amounts to a propaganda campaign is another matter entirely,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which opposes large highway construction projects.

Once a final agreement is reached with the National Park Service and other signatories determining the Bi-County Parkway’s precise corridor, Virginia officials anticipate final environmental approval a few weeks later. The government shutdown is delaying the process.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Honnick. Click here to read the original story.

Largo site is front-runner for new hospital in Prince George’s

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is backing a selection committee’s recommendation that a Largo site be chosen for a new, $654 million state-of-the-art regional hospital.

The board of directors for Dimensions Healthcare System, the nonprofit organization operating four hospitals in Prince George’s County, will discuss the recommendation during its meeting today.

“The selection committee will recommend the Largo site officially at the Dimensions board meeting,” Baker spokesman Scott Peterson said Wednesday. “This is the selection committee recommendation, not the county executive’s. Mr. Baker concurs with this recommendation.”

The proposed 280-bed hospital would replace the aging Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.

Dimensions Healthcare also operates Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Campus and Glenridge Medical Center in Lanham.

On Tuesday, a selection committee comprised of members from county government, Dimensions Healthcare, the University of Maryland Medical System and the Maryland Department of Health and Human Hygiene recommended the Largo site, located next to the Largo Metro station. The other contender for the hospital was the site of the former Landover Mall.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based organization promoting walkable, transit-oriented community development in the Metropolitan area, issued a statement Wednesday morning applauding the recommendation.

“Prince George’s County took a big step forward toward a more sustainable economic and environmental future with the decision to place the new regional medical center at the Largo Town Center Metro station,” Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth policy director, said in the statement.

The Largo site is comprised of 70 acres of land owned by Oak Brook, Ill.-based Retail Properties of America, and several adjoining properties under private ownership. It is adjacent to the Boulevard at Capital Centre shopping center and the Largo Metro station.

The site is within close access to Interstate 495.

“A Metro-accessible regional medical center helps Prince George’s catalyze transit-oriented economic development and capture a larger share of the region’s growth,” Cort said in the statement. “Locating this major new medical facility at a Metro station brings both healthcare and thousands of jobs to a significantly more accessible location for county residents.”

Dimensions Healthcare announced in July that the search for the new hospital had been narrowed to two sites, the Largo site and the site of the old Landover Mall, which was demolished in 2007.

The Landover site provides bus service to the New Carrollton Metro, nearly three miles away. The Largo Metro station is somewhat closer to the Landover site, at 2.5 miles walking distance, but not directly accessible by bus.

The hospital construction is being funded through state and county government, as well as Dimensions and the University of Maryland Medical System.

 Read the original article at the Gazzette. >>

STATEMENT on Prince George’s Regional Medical Center Location Decision

STATEMENT on Prince George’s Regional Medical Center Location Decision

Coalition for Smarter Growth Policy Director Cheryl Cort issued the following statement commending Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker for his decision to place the new regional medical center at the Largo Town Center Metro Station:

“Prince George’s County took a big step forward toward a more sustainable economic and environmental future with the decision to place the new regional medical center at the Largo Town Center Metro station.  We congratulate County Executive Rushern Baker, his partners at the University of Maryland, and the state in this wise decision.  Locating this new state-of-the-art healthcare complex at the Largo Metro station fulfills the Executive’s often stated intention to leverage the value of the county’s 15 Metro stations. We applaud County Executive Baker and his team for negotiating this exciting deal on behalf of county and area residents.

A Metro-accessible regional medical center helps Prince George’s catalyze transit-oriented economic development and capture a larger share of the region’s growth.  Prince George’s Metro stations are among the county’s most important assets for attracting new businesses and residents. Locating this major new medical facility at a Metro station brings both healthcare and thousands of jobs to a significantly more accessible location for county residents. We welcome the new regional medical center at the Largo Metro station and anticipate it will anchor a vibrant new mixed use health district, or maybe even a downtown for the county.

In addition, building the medical center at Largo means more transportation options for employees, visitors and patients which also means less traffic for Prince George’s residents.

Along with the clear economic development benefits of a Metro station site, this decision shows that county leadership is listening to its residents. Through emails, petitions, and call, thousands of residents told county officials that the Largo Metro station was the preferred site while hundreds came out to a community meeting in February to express the same thing. We commend the County Executive for making this a true community decision.”

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.smartergrowth.net.

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Two sites remain in running for Prince George’s regional medical center

Two sites remain in the running for a new, $645 million regional hospital in Prince George’s County to replace the financially ailing Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly and create a full-service medical campus.

The board of Dimensions Healthcare System, which oversees county-owned medical facilities, voted unanimously Thursday to send letters to Maryland health officials endorsing Largo Town Center and the shuttered Landover Mall as possible locations for the hospital.

The move buys officials a little more time to negotiate with representatives of the sites. The board’s chairman, C. Philip Nichols Jr., said he expects a final decision by September.

Plans call for the 259-bed hospital to be part of a full-service medical complex and trauma center, offering high-end specialities and general care. There would be offices for private practices, a parking garage and possibly classrooms for medical professionals who also might train at nearby Prince George’s Community College in Largo. The hospital, expected to open in 2017 as part of the University of Maryland Medical System, would serve Prince George’s and Southern Maryland.

Officials hope the medical complex will attract paying patients with health insurance and provide more primary care to residents of the majority-minority county.

Studies show that Prince George’s residents suffer disproportionately from diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and there is a shortage of primary-care medical practices.

The Dimensions board acted on recommendations from a search committee whose members include representatives from the University of Maryland Medical System, Prince George’s County and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Before choosing Landover Mall and Largo Town Center, the search committee examined properties around the Morgan Boulevard Metro station and Woodmore Towne Center shopping center, said Bradford L. Seamon, a Dimensions board member, search committee member and top aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). But the committee rejected those sites because of their locations and because they had multiple owners, making it difficult to assemble enough land.

The committee’s deliberations are not open to the public.

Now the search committee is looking into cost, availability, the potential for future development, and whether roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure would be needed, he said.

“We are still continuing to negotiate, and we want to negotiate with two sites to come up with the best deal. At this point, I don’t want to talk numbers,” Seamon told the board.

Although officials of the University of Maryland Medical System had urged the search committee to find at least 100 acres, Seamon said committee members now believe that the hospital itself could be built on four or five acres of a 25-acre medical campus.

The two sites in contention each have advantages, Seamon said. The Largo site, at the Boulevard at Capital Centre, is on 70 acres of county-owned land next to a Metro station and close to the Capital Beltway.

There is an additional 30 acres in adjacent parcels owned by two private developers.

The 88-acre Landover Mall site is nearly vacant — only a Sears store remains. It is close to the Capital Beltway and about 11 / 3 miles from the Largo Town Center Metro station. Landover Mall is owned by the Lerner family, which also owns the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth is pushing for Largo Town Center but said Landover Mall is ripe for redevelopment.

“It is crying out for something to happen at the mall,” she said. “But something as important as the hospital should not be so far from transit.”

Douglas M. Duncan, the former Montgomery County executive who is representing the Lerners, declined to comment.

Eventually, the University of Maryland Medical System is expected to take over Dimensions Healthcare but will not bear any of the costs.

Plans call for a new company — New Dimensions — to float $450 million in bonds, with its $200 million debt service paid by the state. Separately, Prince George’s would float $200 million in bonds.

Click here to read the original story>>

Testimony before the Hon. Andrea Harrison, Chair, Prince George’s County Council Re: Prince George’s CB 27-2013: Rental Conversion First Refusal

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Our organization works to ensure that transportation and development decisions in the Washington, D.C. region, including the Maryland suburbs, accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth would like to express its support for CB 27, with the amendment that “Sec. 13-1120. Designation” be deleted. We are concerned that this designation by resolution provision is unnecessary and inhibits the function of this tool. Overall, we support this bill as a careful tool to assist with the preservation of quality rental housing to better meet the needs of many Prince George’s residents who struggle to find decent housing they can afford.

It is a measured tool to allow the county to help preserve affordable rental housing either through direct purchase, or through assigning the right to a third party. It also allows for waivers if certain conditions are met. This approach offers the county the opportunity to protect affordable rental housing without unduly burdening the building owner. Thus this tool is likely to be used where there is institutional and community capacity to purchase and rehabilitate rental housing. We welcome this useful tool to help Prince George’s residents secure quality, affordable rental housing.

Like all Washington, D.C. area jurisdictions, a significant share of residents find housing costs too high for their incomes. Building a toolbox of policies that help more Prince George’s working families find suitable housing that they can afford is a critical task for public officials. CB 27 is one of the tools that the county should have to assist renters with the opportunity to preserve their homes as affordable. This should be one of many tools. In 2010, we published a policy paper examining Prince George’s housing needs and initiatives (summary attached). This effort followed extensive work we have done in other jurisdictions on affordable housing policy. Through our research, we found that Prince George’s uses few local policy tools, both in absolute terms and compared to surrounding jurisdictions (see attached Table 5). Thus we welcome CB 27 as an important contribution to a local housing toolbox we hope to grow over time.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cheryl Cort, Policy Director

Prince George’s tries to make TOD easier

Prince George’s County wants to encourage growth in the right places by speeding up the approval process for transit-oriented development. The county council unanimously passed a bill last week that just might do it.

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Developers have often said they don’t want to do business in Prince George’s because of its lengthy and unpredictable development review process. Bill CB 20 creates a fast-track development review process for projects within ½ mile of the county’s 15 Metro stations and the Bowie MARC station.

Projects are eligible for the speedier process if the Planning Board finds they meet best practices for urban design, like mixing housing with retail and making engaging streetscapes.

The bill aims to increase transit ridership, reduce auto dependency, and encourage walking for more trips. It’s one of several recommendations county planners say could draw more investment to the county’s Metro station areas.

Concerned about attracting unwanted commercial uses, the bill contains a long list of uses that are not eligible for the expedited review, including adult entertainment, liquor stores, pawn shops, strip malls, and drive-throughs.

An earlier version of the bill would have eliminated most requirements for public meetings or site plan review. This could have potentially rushed low-quality projects to approval without giving the Planning Board and the public enough time to review proposed projects.

Not surprisingly, many people opposed it, and the County Council tabled the bill last year before putting together a roundtable to discuss ways to improve incentives for transit-oriented development. The current bill combines 2 overlapping versions councilmembers Eric Olson and Mel Franklin submitted earlier this year.

The bill’s most important feature is streamlining the review process. It prevents the County Council from arbitrarily dragging out the process, a power they’ve abused in the past that creates uncertainty and discourages developers from working in the county. Developers say that the unpredictability of approvals in Prince George’s County often makes it not worth the time and money spent there.

While the current bill shortens the review process, it still gives the Planning Board and members of the public enough time to offer feedback. If the Planning Board approves a proposal, the County Council has a few days to decide whether or not to review it as well. Project applicants or residents can also use this time to appeal the board’s decision.

Bill CB 20 is just one of many actions Prince George’s County has taken to encourage investment at Metro stations. Recently, county officials have also reduced the impact fees developers pay to support schools and public safety. Economic analysts say excessive fees discourage investment altogether, meaning the county won’t even receive the fees it seeks to collect.

Another element of ensuring development goes at Prince George’s Metro stations is having a good countywide plan. There is a town meeting this Saturday, 10 am-1 pm at the University of Maryland, to work on a plan for the county’s growth over the next 20+ years. You can help push for a plan that works in concert with this legislation to encourage TOD at Metro station sites.

Photo Courtesy of Elvert Barnes on flickr.

Click here to read the original story>>