In Metro Apartment design spat, College Park has tax leverage

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A large, five-story, recedes into the distance.

Gilbane Development Co.

A rendering of the 645-foot long western face of the proposed College Park Metro Apartments.

At its June 11 meeting, College Park City Council will consider detailed site plans and a tax credit for a proposed 450-unit market-rate apartment building next to the city’s Metro station. Council has previously been supportive of the project, which city policymakers hope will attract more year-round residents to the area, and which transit officials hope will attract commuters to ride the rails. The project is planned be built by Gilbane Development on a ground lease from WMATA, and would provide easy access to Metro, MARC and future Purple Line transit services. 

To this point, College Park City Council has been broadly supportive of the project. In 2017, City Council voted to support the developers’ conceptual site plan application.

But as the developers seek approval for their detailed site plan from Prince George’s County Planning Board, College Park city officials bristled at the developer’s reluctance to accept a suite of development conditions covering such things as an agreement to limit student rentals, commitment to maintain improvements in the public right-of-way along River Road, and funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to be built nearby.

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn.

But College Park may have leverage in the negotiations, as Mayor Patrick Wojahn noted to the developers during a June 4 worksession: Gilbane is seeking an economic development tax credit from the city to build the project. 

“I think if we can get these other concerns addressed and we can work together on this, I’d be much more inclined to consider a tax credit in a way that is more amenable to addressing the city’s concerns,” Wojahn said, addressing Gilbane’s development representatives during the meeting.

“We are committed to working over the next week to refine some of the comments and conditions. On some of these issues, it was a bit surprising,” replied Robert Gilbane Jr. “We are committed to working with the city to address the concerns of all involved, and that’s really all I have to say at this stage.”

As College Park City Council prepares to consider both the site plan application and the tax credit at its June 11 meeting, city staff are recommending approval with conditions, including two provisions Gilbane officials object to: a requirement to enter into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan with the city in the event the property is sold or transferred to a nonprofit or non-taxable entity, and a requirement to get the city’s consent before making changes to building management structure.

On the tax credit, city staff have merely noted the project meets conditions for its five-year revitalization tax credit program. No recommendation, positive or negative, was issued.

The maximum value of the tax credit over its five year term is $582,450, stepping down from a tax credit of 75 percent to 15 percent in the final year.

Ultimately College Park’s opinion on the matter is merely advisory. All zoning and development decisions are made at the county level. The Prince George’s County Planning Board takes up the matter at its June 13, 2019 meeting.

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