Controversial construction plans for a new McDonald’s in Chillum
BY ADELIA MCGUIRE
McDonald’s wants to bring even more Big Macs and fries to the area. The corporation is making plans to construct a new restaurant in Lewisdale. However, a group of local citizens have united to discourage the planning and zoning departments of Prince George’s County from granting approval of this construction.
The proposed lot is located in the Green Meadows Shopping Center at the intersection of East-West Highway (MD-410) and Ager Road. Upon approval, the construction of this McDonald’s would involve the complete demolition of woods located in proximity to the site, as well as the replacement of a local Salvadoran restaurant.
McDonald’s Corp., which operates out of Chicago, is pushing to build in this location due to the congested nature of this intersection, which the company finds desirable for a drive-thru. According to some citizens, however, the presented construction plan of this additional McDonald’s poses a multitude of negative impacts on the community, including increased traffic and more unhealthy dining options.
Community activist Alexi Sanchez and César Chávez PTO President Ilse Denisse Catalan have both spoken out against McDonald’s coming into this location.
Sanchez has been highly involved in organizing initiatives to combat the county’s approval of this motion. Sanchez, who believes this development will have direct implications for the area’s traffic network and community environment, has played a key role in communicating citizen concerns to the district council and local government.
“There’s already two McDonald’s in proximity, so we don’t really need a third one,” Sanchez said.
Many residents of the area would like more diverse and healthy dining alternatives, according to Sanchez.
“The people with children are not happy about their kids having exposure to more poor food choice options,” he said. “If it was up to McDonald’s, there would be one on every corner, and we prefer something better.”
César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion School is located just down the road from the proposed lot. Some César Chávez parents have expressed concerns about this McDonald’s increasing unhealthy food options and creating dangerous traffic patterns for their children to navigate.
Catalan said there is absolutely no need for another McDonald’s in the area. “We are literally surrounded by fast food,” she noted. With the intersection located just a short walk from the elementary school, students who walk to or from school will now have easy access to yet another poor food option, the PTO president explained.
Catalan shared the frustration of César Chávez teachers, who are required to travel up to 20 minutes for a healthy lunch option. “Our teachers have a hard time getting food in the area. If they don’t pack a lunch and they need to go run and get something, there isn’t really anything that they can get that’s wholesome,” she said.
Catalan also detailed the traffic dangers the drive-thru would impose on the César Chávez community. Ager Road is actively utilized by pedestrians and cyclists.
“Right now, our school is in the middle of trying to get the Maryland State Highway Administration to see that we have a pretty serious traffic problem coming in and out of the school,” Catalan said. The school’s traffic problem is related to the congested nearby intersection of Riggs Road and East-West Highway. The issue could worsen if this McDonald’s increased traffic in the area.
In the past year, according to Catalan, a grandparent of a César Chávez student was brought to the hospital after their vehicle was struck while turning out of the East-West Highway and Ager Road intersection.
The Stop McDonald’s webpage, created by a coalition of locals, notes that this McDonald’s would increase traffic, leading to more pollution and decreased cyclist and pedestrian safety. Sanchez clarified that this McDonald’s would be strictly a drive-thru location, without any dine-in seating.
“We don’t want more cars driving through and creating potential risks for pedestrians walking along the sidewalk,” Sanchez said.
The Life & Times contacted the McDonald’s Corp. for responses to these concerns. The corporation had not responded as of press time.
Earlier this year, the Chillum-Ray Citizens Association played a key role in preventing the construction of a Royal Farms gas station that would have torn down a neighborhood playground. Royal Farms had applied to build a 16-pump gas station and store at the southeastern corner of Riggs Road and East-West Highway abutting the Sligo Creek Trail, but withdrew the application in January 2023.
Sanchez said he attended a meeting held in early September by the McDonald’s Corp., during which he heard members of the Chillum–Ray Civic Association voice their opposition to this McDonald’s location.
No decision regarding the approval of McDonald’s proposal has been confirmed. Sanchez said the coalition of residents responsible for the Stop McDonalds webpage hope to coordinate a virtual meeting with the civic association, during which they can discuss their shared concerns about the general direction of the area’s development.
Adelia McGuire is an undergraduate journalism and business student at the University of Maryland.