Rezoning, land swap sought for controversial University Hills land development
BY SAM STERN — A representative from the owners of the Clay Property — a 12.87 acre undeveloped parcel of land south of University Hills — presented updated plans for development at the Nov. 16 Hyattsville City Council meeting. The landowner is requesting that the city council recommend to Prince George’s County the property be rezoned and support a proposed land swap with the Maryland-National Capital Parks & Recreation.
“University Hills loves those woods. If you take them away from us, they can never be replaced,” Ward 3 resident Jim Menasian said during public comment.
The Marvin R. Blumberg Company owns the land, which is being considered for inclusion in the Prince George’s Plaza Transit District Overlay Zone (TDOZ).
Part of the applicant’s vision for rezoning to R-20 includes building a community that aligns with the Plan Prince George’s 2035 vision for the Hyattsville downtown area. “As amended by the Transit Development District Plan (TDDP), the R-20 Zone generally allows for single-family attached residential dwelling units,” landowner representatives said in a letter to the city about the property. The R-20 zone would allow the Clay Property to have up to 210 units.
The property is currently zoned as R-80, which Chris Hatcher Esq., with a law firm representing the landowner, said would allow for up to approximately 58 units.
Councilmember Tom Wright (Ward 3) said he didn’t understand why the developers want the property rezoned since the Prince George’s Plaza TDDP recommends it stay R-80.
Hatcher said the other outlying residential areas were also zoned R-20, so this would keep the Clay Property consistent with the other areas in the TDOZ.
Hatcher also said the Prince George’s Plaza TDDP does not allow for cul-de-sacs. The University Hills neighborhood includes several cul-de-sacs, which contribute to its character. The Prince George’s Plaza TDDP also requires all streets connect to existing public roads, which is something University Hills residents have expressed concern about.
Hatcher said they put up two land swap proposals to the county parks department, both of which include the Clay Property square just south of historic Ash Hill. The first proposal was unfavorable for the developers, because they found it included park land that would take a substantial amount of time to transfer. The second proposal swaps that same Clay Property square with a parcel of similar size directly south and west of the square. Hatcher said they met with the parks department in October, who is currently considering the pros and cons of the proposal.
Hatcher said the swap would put more preserved space in between the development and the historic property and prevent the required connection to Rosemary Lane.
“Whatever you recommend, ensure to the greatest extent possible that the ambience and the view of Ash Hill also known as Hitching Post Hill would be preserved,” Gloria Felix-Thompson, representing the Hyattsville Preservation Association, told the council.
“I think [the developers] ignore all of the environmental concerns that have been raised throughout this entire process by many stakeholders, not just the environmental committee,” Ward 3 resident Alyson Reed said. “I think the proposal is a misguided attempt to allay the concerns of some of the residents who live in immediate vicinity to the Clay Property.”
Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) said absent a land exchange, many of the most negative consequences of the project cited by residents would be realized. “If we [the developers] don’t have a land swap then we’re going to develop the entire area all the way to Rosemary Lane in the ways that are are currently permitted, which I think all of us have some concerns about,” he said.
The topic is currently set as a discussion item for the Dec. 7 council meeting, and will include city staff recommendations for the future of the project.