A much talked-about bill was pulled off the table last week by Prince George’s County Councilman Tony Knotts, D.-Dist. 8, after support for the bill waned in the late moments. The bill would’ve allowed for a controversial zoning code change and allowed a mixed-use development along the Indian Head Highway corridor in Fort Washington.

Knotts tabled CB-69-2010, opposed by the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, Prince George’s Planning Board and Chief Zoning Hearing Examiner, because Fort Washington Medical Center, whose campus would’ve been adjacent to the project, failed to show up to the meeting.

There’s no guarantee that the bill would’ve had much grassroots support anyway as many community leaders are at odds over the project. Some didn’t want the project to begin with; some were in favor of it and some think it was just the particular area that made the project bad for business.

John Schnizlein, president of the Piscataway Hills Citizen’s Association, which is an advocate for the project, said the project could’ve potentially brought an end to the traffic nightmare that plagues Indian Head Highway during rush hour.

“We were there to support it because we believe the Indian Head Highway corridor should have more walkable communities,” Schnizlein said. “We talked about the economic conditions that you need to have walkable communities and one of those is you need the opportunity to be able to walk to work and not have to get on the highway and drive like everybody else.”

Indian Head Highway spans from Charles County to the Beltway in Oxon Hill and near National Harbor. The road is a major commuter thoroughfare not only for people living in Fort Washington, but also for those in Waldorf, La Plata and other towns in Charles County.

Schnizlein says the project would have alleviated traffic. Some questioned Schnizlein’s assertions and the project altogether.

William Cavitt, president of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council (IHHAAC) is against the development in its current space, but is not against it altogether. Cavitt told the AFRO that the IHHAAC is for smart sustainable growth, but the proposed site for this development was not suitable for that.

“The kind of development proposed for Fort Washington Acres is fine in the right location; move it 2 miles north on Livingston Road to the so-called Henson Creek Transit Village and we’d be content,” Cavitt said. “That location is ideally suited and sited for dense mixed-use redevelopment. Indeed, we’d be thrilled for it to one day look like Shirlington.”

As a result, the IHHAAC sent a letter to Prince George’s County Executive-elect Rushern Baker’s transition team expressing the organizations viewpoint on the development. According to the group, the changing of the zoning code was all about developer greed and not for the improvement of the quality of life of south county residents.

“There is no evident need for additional retail and commercial space in the area, given that five stores are vacant in the Olde Forte Village Shopping Center two blocks south and two are vacant in the South Potomac Commerce Center,” the letter stated. “The lack of need for additional retail/commercial space raises questions about why this project is being pursued.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO