A proposed development in Brandywine is receiving a great deal of scrutiny as residents attempt to deal with growth issues and whether rules are being bent to allow the plan to come to fruition.

The first issue was the Prince George’s County Planning Board hearing a reconsideration case on behalf of the developer to waive a $5 million public safety mitigation fee due to the lack of police service in the area. The developer agreed to pay the fee, but after project approval filed a request for reconsideration.

Former Council Chair Tom Dernoga, D.-Dist. 1, said this isn’t the first time something like this has taken place involving the planning board and that the entire thing is fishy.

“The planning board has been known to use this trick on many occasions,” Dernoga said in an e-mail. “Even where a case was decided years ago, the Planning Board will use a rule that allows for the “waiver of the rules” to waive time limits. This is abuse of the waiver rules by the Planning Board because it confers jurisdiction that it no longer has. In this way, no case is ever “final.”

The request was eventually denied, but controversy continues to surround this development.

The controversy began in 2008, when the County Council re-zoned the area to allow for mixed-use residential, office and retail development.

Kelly Canavan, president of the Accokeek, Mattawoman and Piscataway Creeks Communities Council, appealed the rezoning in Prince George’s County Circuit Court and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, but was unsuccessful in her attempts. Canavan still has three open civil suits against the District Council and County Council.

Almost three years later residents continue to fight to keep the development from happening. The far southeastern corner of the county, where Brandywine is located, is known as the rural tier and residents want to keep development to a minimum.

Kamita Gray, president of the Brandywine/TB, Southern Region Neighborhood Coalition, has filed an appeal with the County Council over the development. Gray’s has requested an opportunity to speak at a future Council meeting regarding the measure.

It’s unclear where the community’s political leadership stands on the issue. Former District 9 Councilwoman Marilyn Bland was a staunch supporter of development in her district, including introducing a bill, which eventually passed, that created a special tax district for Brandywine Crossing – allowing it to grow.

However, current District 9 Councilman Mel Franklin may be on Gray’s side. Franklin hasn’t spoken publicly on the issue as it is pending, but did speak about protecting the rural tier during his campaign.

Franklin said he wanted to stimulate economic investment in his district by creating county transit centers around the Branch Avenue Metro Station and Joint Base Andrews while also saying he wanted to work with the Prince George’s County Farm Bureau to help strengthen the agriculture industry that’s so prevalent near the proposed development.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO