By Sophie Gorman Oriani
Last October, when University of Maryland President Darryll Pines announced that plans to develop Guilford Woods would be put on hold, residents breathed a sigh of relief. But now, they say, this wooded parcel of land near the university faces a new threat — the Adelphi Road Sector Plan.
With the anticipated arrival of Purple Line stations in College Park, the new sector plan is intended to guide development around the Adelphi Road station for the next 25 years. Most of the area included in the plan would be upzoned, with only a few acres retained as open space.
Guilford Woods is a 15-acre, state-owned tract between the College Heights Estates neighborhood and the university. According to the Friends of Guilford Woods, a local advocacy group, the parcel boasts around 1,500 mature trees, representing some 30 species, and is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
On Jan. 18, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and the Prince George’s County Council held a joint hearing to solicit public comment on the Adelphi Road Sector Plan. Shubha Punase, a project manager with M-NCPPC, gave a presentation describing the goals of the plan, the public engagement process to date and the timeline for approval.
According to Punase, the planning process, which began in November 2020, has included stakeholder listening sessions, virtual office hours, an online survey, receipt of emails and letters submitted as public comment, and an in-person open house open to the public.
At the public hearing, Delegate Mary Lehman (District 21) spoke against upzoning Guilford Woods, and some other speakers opposed the plan. A number of residents said that they supported it, though they had concerns about how it would be implemented. Many people pointed out a disconnect between the plan’s purported attention to environmental factors and the potential consequences of upzoning of the woods.
Alexander Rohlf, who is a 5th grader, asked the council to protect the woods, where he said he learned a lot about snakes during the pandemic.
Pastor Julie Bringman, of Hope Lutheran Church, and Arthur Horne, of Shipley and Horne, offered the only comments supporting the sector plan without qualifications.
College Park City Councilmember Stuart Adams (District 3) urged the county council not to move forward at this time, especially given the delayed opening of the Purple Line and the pause on the Western Gateway project. “We have enough time to really thoughtfully consider how to add appropriate density, how to make sure we’re looking at our school burdens, how we can preserve our green space and make this absolutely fantastic,” he said at the public hearing.
At the Jan. 25 city council meeting, councilmembers requested, in a letter, that the Prince George’s County Council and the county planning board delay moving the sector plan forward. The letter, signed by Mayor Patrick Wojahn, states that the proposed plan “inadequately addresses environmental, transportation and public facility issues, and recommends zoning changes that are not justified.”
The letter asks the county council to recognize the role of the Guilford Run Watershed in preventing flooding and promoting biodiversity. It also acknowledged the importance of having smart, high-density growth near public transportation but asked that any future development not interfere with preservation of College Park’s natural areas.
The county planning board will meet in March to review the public comments and again in April to vote on adopting the sector plan. The county council will also meet, in May, to review the public comments. In June, the county council will either adopt or amend the sector plan. If the council decides to amend the plan significantly, another public hearing will take place, followed by adoption of the plan, including any amendments or changes, in October.