College Park Council nixes tax break for Metro Apartments; Gives conditional support for plans

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Gilbane Development Co.

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

College Park City Council voted to conditionally support plans for a proposed 450-unit apartment building near the city’s Metro Station. But citing disagreement with developers over proposed development concessions, Council also declined to consider an economic development tax credit application builder Gilbane Development Corp. sought from city officials. 

The matter now heads before the Prince George’s County Planning Board at its June 13 meeting. College Park City Council’s support of the development is contingent upon several conditions that Gilbane officials object to. They include a commitment to maintain street furniture and other improvements built as part of the project along River Road, and funding commitments for public art and bicycle and pedestrian enhancements.

Most importantly, at least from a government finance perspective, was a condition that would effectively prohibit the building or property from being sold to a nonprofit or tax-exempt entity unless that entity agreed to make annual payments in-lieu-of taxes, or PILOT agreement. For college towns and other municipalities with a lot of property owned or occupied by nonprofits or government agencies, the prospect of a large, valuable mixed-use multi-family apartment building exiting the tax books is a tangible policy concern.

“The amount of the credit does not provide a sufficient inducement to devalue the property by entering into a PILOT,” wrote Gilbane representatives in a response to the proposed condition.

Procedurally, the tax break was removed from the agenda early in the meeting by unanimous vote on a motion from Councilor John Rigg. 

“We don’t have agreement on the conditions,” explained Rigg. 

Later, during discussion of the detailed site plan before the Planning Board, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said he was disappointed in Gilbane’s reluctance to accept the conditions, but said he was also excited about the prospect of adding new housing east of the Metro Station.

“It does come as a bit of surprise to us to hear this resistance to what we see as a pretty standard term in our agreements in the city,” said Wojahn. “We’ve removed the…tax credit from the agenda this evening pending further negotiation around these issues, and I do hope that we feel comfortable moving forward.”

The tax credit would have been worth a total of approximately $583,450 over five years.

In the end, College Park City Council unanimously voted to support the project, but with the conditions that Gilbane’s representatives objected to.

Notably, Prince George’s Planning Board’s staff recommendation doesn’t address College Park’s desired conditions. Rather, it recommends tactical, but essentially minor, conditions relating to site design and layout. It includes a recommended condition seeking $8,000 for recreational facilities. Whether or not the Planning Board will add College Park’s conditions to its decision remains to be seen.

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