City council and planning committee seek a colorful response
By Aneurin Canham-Clyne
For the second week in a row, representatives of Fairfield Residential fielded questions and concerns from City of Hyattsville representatives about a proposed development on Toledo Road.
On Feb. 25, Bryan Condie, Fairfield’s manager of development, and Thomas Haller, an attorney representing the company, presented a detailed site plan for a 300-plus-unit housing development to the city’s planning committee.
As part of the city’s development review process, Fairfield presented their development plans to the city council, first, on Feb. 18. They then shared these plans with the planning committee, whose job it is to make a recommendation and provide comments for the city council to consider when the development plans come before them as a discussion item.
The planning committee voted to recommend that the city council approve the overall plan, including some design elements that go against the Transit District Development Plan, specifically a lower ceiling in one retail space and two slight setbacks from the line developers are required to build to.
Some committee members voiced skepticism with elements of Fairfield’s plan, however, especially its color scheme.
David Marshall, a planning committee member, recommended that the developers opt for bold, bright colors.
“I like bright; I like cheerful. I’m tired of brown and tan and beige. The city puts a lot of emphasis on art and artists, as you see on this side of the city; some of that needs to migrate to where your project is,” he said.
Marshall also objected to the use of pavers in crosswalks, saying that vehicles tend to pull them up from the pavement, causing a mess.
Committee member Todd Dengel agreed with Marshall’s assessment of the black-and-white color scheme and recommended the developers look at Miami’s Wynwood district and North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose development for two very different approaches to color.
“Wynwood is a good example, an extreme example, of a unique and interesting color palette,” Dengel said. “Pike & Rose is a more traditional, yet beautifully designed, aesthetic.”
At the meeting on Feb. 18, Condie addressed concerns about the color scheme, saying, “We are open to different color patterns, [but] we don’t like to be bold. We’re not a bold company. We’re not the trendsetters when it comes to new looks. But we are open to suggestions, if staff has something in mind.”
The planning committee voted to recommend that the developers work with city staff to identify possible color palettes. The committee recommended that the company take steps to improve crosswalks along Toledo road, without specifying how. They also recommended that the developers look into the possibility of installing solar panels and consider other sustainability efforts.
When City Manager Jim Chandler recommended that the developers place the transformers below grade, Condie responded that burying transformers is difficult, and that Fairfield would prefer to surround the transformers with decorative metal screening.
“[Installing below grade is] cost-prohibitive for this type of development,” Condie said.
Overall, the planning committee’s responses were in line with those of city staff during the Feb. 18 presentation, during which Chandler said, “The detailed site plan for this parcel checks a lot of the boxes that are consistent with the Transit District Development Plan.” Chandler noted though, that city staff still wanted to see some significant changes to the development plan, including the aforementioned buried power transformers.
At the Feb. 18 city council meeting, Mayor Candace Hollingsworth grilled Haller and Condie about accessibility to 10 proposed units that would have steps facing the street. Hollingsworth was concerned these units would pose an accessibility challenge for elderly and disabled residents. The developers had sought to assure her the building would be accessible, given its multiple elevators and internal hallways.
“There’s ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance, but then there’s the dynamic of individuals who are getting older,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s not that they are wheelchair bound,it’s just that even the slightest amount of elevation can be a bit concerning.”
At the end of the Feb. 18 meeting, Hollingsworth underscored that the city seeks a productive relationship with Fairfield, saying, “While I recognize that you disagree with almost every one of the modifications that were proposed, I appreciate that you respected us enough to give a little bit of insight into your thinking.”