City council discusses Magruder Park renaming process
Magruder Park is one step closer to having a new name. The park has been the subject of controversy over the last several years, as the deed originally contained discriminatory language restricting the use of the park to Caucasians.
On March 18, 2019, the city council passed a motion to investigate the feasibility of changing the name of the park and updating the deed to remove “any restrictions on use of the public amenity that would be considered discriminatory as defined by the Hyattsville Human Rights Act.” In May 2020, the council approved a motion to update the deed, removing discriminatory language.
At the Aug. 10 city council meeting, City Administrator Tracey Douglas shared that the newly updated quitclaim deed is complete and is currently going through the courts. She proposed a number of ways that the public could suggest names:, by email, the city website, a drop box in the park or a phone number. Residents could then vote on a new name from a list of the three to five best options, as selected by the council and committees.
Some of the city councilmembers, including Erica Wolf (Ward 5) and Ben Simasek (Ward 3), supported holding a public hearing to discuss possible new names, while Robert Croslin (Ward 4) said he didn’t think that would be necessary.
Douglas said she anticipates that if the renaming process started in mid-September, a new name could be announced by January or February 2021.
City tax break established for affordable housing
On Aug. 10, the Hyattsville City Council voted unanimously to make city tax breaks available for “the production of affordable housing.” Mayor Candace B. Hollingsworth sponsored the amendment to Section 108-4 of Hyattsville’s city code.
The city adopted a tax revitalization program in 2013. The program allows the city to give tax credits for development projects that would increase tax-assessed property values in certain areas of the city.
Under the program, the council granted a $400,000 tax credit for the construction of a Safeway in 2013 and a $3 million tax credit for the development of the Hyattsville Armory Apartments in 2019.
The credits in that program were limited: They could be used to avoid paying only an increase in taxes, not to avoid paying existing taxes.
That limit would be lifted for affordable housing under the proposal approved August 10th. Developers could qualify for a tax break on 100% of the value of a property for developing new affordable housing. For projects with 13 or more units, 15% of new units would have to be affordable, and the tax credit would last up to 10 years. For projects with 20 or more units, 20% of new units would have to be affordable, and the credit would last for 15 years.
Developers could also earn a 50% tax break for maintaining an existing inventory of affordable housing.
To qualify for a tax credit, a development would have to provide housing affordable to families and individuals who earn 60% of area median income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median income in Hyattsville was $77,097 in 2018.
City continues progress on community sustainability plan
At the Aug. 10 city council meeting, Kate Powers, the city planner, gave an update on the 2017-2021 community sustainability plan. The plan’s vision is “to create a thriving city, grounded in sustainability and inclusiveness, that advances the lives of its residents through the building of community, connectivity of people and places, and responsible development.”
The community sustainability plan is “used by the City Council, City staff and community residents to set goals and measure progress,” according to the report given to city council. The city planner updates the council yearly on the progress toward the stated goals. A new 5-year plan will be made in 2021.
Building on the three themes of community, connectivity and development, the current plan has 67 action steps. According to the Aug. 10 update, approximately one quarter of these have been completed, one third have not been started and the rest are either in progress or ongoing.
Examples of action steps completed include purchasing a second teen center location at 5812 40th Avenue, implementing the Capital Bikeshare program, evaluating the feasibility of a city-wide circulator bus, and improving parking and wayfinding signage around the city.
Action steps that are ongoing or in progress include rebranding the Prince George’s Plaza area, planting native trees in city rights of way, pursuing grants to revitalize the city’s parks and encouraging new development projects to create affordable rental housing.
Actions steps that haven’t been started yet include transforming Centennial Park, requesting state legislation to allow more speed cameras in the city and placing bike grates over storm drains on roads with bike lanes.
Pathway to Unity March
At 8:00am sharp on Friday morning August 28th, a crowd of about 100 locals left the parking lot in front of DeMatha High School and headed down Baltimore Avenue into the district.
It was the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a Dream” speech. Crowds were gathering by the Lincoln Memorial for the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks march, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and others.
North Brentwood Councilmember Charles Wiley, a DeMatha alumnus who organized the local march, said in a press release that “even before I moved to North Brentwood, this corridor and even the date of August 28th were significant for me, personally. Now, it bothers me that we are so divided. . .I believe that when we learn to unify locally, we can build the foundation for healing as a nation.”
Supporters dedicated the march, entitled Pathway to Unity, to police reform, voter registration and participation, and an accurate census.
All the marchers were masked, and many wore tee-shirts or carried signs saying Black Lives Matter.
Police escorts, in cruisers and on bicycles, protected marchers from traffic. Shortcake Bakery employees passed out water and coffee to marchers as they went by. Northbound trucks honked their horns in support.
County planning board approves detailed site plans for Dewey Development
The Prince George’s County Planning Board approved a detailed site plan (DSP) for the Dewey Development on July 16. The project is located near University Town Center and the Mall at Prince George’s, on the north side of Toledo Road, and will eventually cover 21.6 acres. One part of the proposed project includes a five-story mixed use building, at the intersection of Belcrest and Toledo Roads, with 321 housing units and 1,258 square feet of retail space. The other part includes 529 multifamily units: 361 apartments in a second five-story building and 168 town houses spread across 13 four-story buildings.
The proposal also includes a parking garage, garden courtyard, pool, dog park and a large stormwater management pond. The property is currently owned by Dewey LC, which has Prince George’s Metro Center Inc. as its parent company.