College Park District 3 candidates talk development, safety, and taxes
By ALEXANDRA ALPERT
On Oct. 19, College Park District 3 city council candidates and the mayor discussed economic development, public safety and property taxes, among other topics.
College Park’s Yarrow Civic Association, based in the Yarrow neighborhood within District 3, sponsored the forum at city hall. District 3 candidates and Mayor Fazlul Kabir informed voters about their plans to address the city’s challenges as they prepare for the upcoming November 5 election.
Three District 3 candidates are competing for two city council seats: Stuart Adams, an engineering consultant for housing, transportation, and disaster mitigation; John Rigg, director of management operations for The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority; and Perez Abbott, manager of business services for Employ Prince Georges.
Abbott is the only newcomer in the District 3 race. Rigg has served as a College Park City Councilmember, representing District 3, since 2017. Adams has served as a College Park City Councilmember, also representing District 3, since 2021.
Mayor Kabir runs unopposed in this election. The forum was moderated by Shawn Anderson, a WTOP news anchor.
The council candidates and Kabir discussed supporting local businesses and the displacement of 15 businesses at Campus Village Shops, which will be replaced with an apartment complex with retail space.
Kabir said that he was unhappy when he found out about the closure of the shopping center. He said he has worked closely with the business owners, and that a city business retention fund could help local owners stay in College Park.
“We have been working to take care of the businesses because they are our assets,” he said.
Adams said he is proud of his work as a councilmember. In May 2023, he helped pass a new annual budget, which included a $0.03 tax increase that will be levied on commercial properties, which will bring in an estimated $515,000 to help small local businesses.
Adams added that work must be done with the county and state to ensure that minority and small businesses are not entering “unfair and inequitable leases.”
Rigg said the city needs to continue to invest in the small business community through financial instruments like microcredit.
“We also need to push on our commercial real estate developers to build small commercial build-outs,” he said.
Abbott said that situations like this are an excellent place for partnership with the county, and recommended small businesses seek assistance from the Prince Geroge’s County Economic Development Corporation.
Moderator Anderson asked the mayor and candidates if it was time to reassess the need for an independent police force in College Park.
Kabir stated that he would be happy to see an independent force provided it did not raise residents’ taxes. Kabir also mentioned alternative ideas like using city staff to enforce parking rules, animal control, and other safety issues.
Abbott said he is open to establishing an independent police force, but argues that community engagement is the key to a safe community.
Adams said he would be interested in revisiting the topic but wants to also look at community policing and a public health analysis.
“We are blessed in College Park to have a safe community, but the residents want more,” Adams said.
Rigg disagreed with others, saying that the city has a low crime rate. “Parks and Recreational programming, additional programming for youth and seniors, more affordable housing in the city, those are higher priorities to me than having our own College Park independent dedicated police force,” Rigg said.
College Park is the lowest-taxed city in Prince George’s County. However, financial challenges lie ahead with the loss of federal pandemic relief money and the city’s growth.
Anderson asked candidates where they stand with property taxes: whether they should be lowered, raised, or remain the same.
Kabir indicated that he is very proud of where property taxes stand. He stated that people seem happy with where they are right now.
“I was the one a couple of years ago, I moved the motion during the budget to bring down the property tax to $0.30 — it used to be $0.31,” he said.
All three council candidates firmly agreed that property taxes should remain the same.
Abbott said that raising or lowering property taxes should happen in conversation with residents and in keeping with expectations set by the city council.
Adams stated that a senior tax credit has been passed, and more work should be put into the homeowner tax credit and a vacant-property tax.
“I helped champion for the first time, College Park has a different rate between commercial properties and residential properties,” Adams said.
Rigg said he believes that property taxes in College Park are on the right track. He stated that since he became a councilmember six years ago, property taxes have gone down.
“The city has a great track record of fiscal stability and fiscal prudence,” he said.