Prince Georgians urged to report flood damages

Elected officials up and down Prince George’s Route 1 corridor are pushing residents and businesses to report damages suffered as a result of flooding from a day-long torrential downpour Sept. 10, 2020.   The hope is that enough damage will be reported for county or state officials to release disaster recovery funding. This Thursday, Prince George’s County Office of Emergency Management has launched a digital form to collect data on flood damages. 

The rains hit communities along the inner-Beltway Route 1 corridor particularly hard, with low-lying neighborhoods in College Park, Edmonston, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood experiencing flooding along the banks of Northeastern and Northwestern Branches. Many residents reported rainwater flooding their homes and basements and damaging vehicles. 

Since then, residents in those neighborhoods have complained about a lack of aid from county and state agencies.

Report criticizes police actions in Shand killing

An outside investigation into the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand found major problems with how police handled the events leading up to Shand’s death, while deeming the shooting itself to be “consistent with accepted standards of police practices.” The full 40-page report is embedded below this article and can be downloaded here. The report was prepared by Powers Consulting Group’s Tyrone Powers, a former FBI agent hired as an outside consultant to review the incident and make recommendations. Powers was on hand to explain the findings of the report during a Sept. 10, 2020, press conference where Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy revealed a grand jury had declined to bring charges against anyone over the incident.

No charges for officers who killed Leonard Shand

Upper Marlboro – A Prince George’s County grand jury has declined to indict any of the police officers who killed Leonard Shand after a half-hour standoff in Hyattsville last year. The announcement was made by Prince George’s County States Attorney Aisha Braveboy during a Sept. 10, 2020, news conference. A report on the incident prepared by an outside use-of-force expert, Baltimore resident and former FBI agent Tyrone Powers, came to the conclusion that Shand’s killing was ultimately justified because he posed a potentially lethal threat to officers. But Powers said the report made several critiques of the police response on the day Shand was killed.

West Hyattsville Metro master plan overhaul in the works

Neighborhoods in Hyattsville, Mount Rainier and Chillum are getting a second look from Prince George’s County planners, who will soon launch an 18-month effort to create a new master plan that will shape future development near the West Hyattsville Metro Station. The resulting document will replace the 2006 Transit District Development Plan overlay zone for the West Hyattsville Metro Station, which currently governs what can and cannot be built near the metro station. Development in the area around West Hyattsville has lagged behind other nearby neighborhoods, such as the Gateway Arts District or the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station, which have been transformed over the past 20 years by intense mixed-use development and redevelopment projects. 

Officials in Prince George’s County and Hyattsville’s planning and community development offices said a new master plan for the West Hyattsville area is needed to address market conditions, rethink transportation within the neighborhood, and to implement Prince George’s County’s new zoning code. 

According to Kipling Reynolds, a chief community planner with the Prince George’s County Planning Department, the current West Hyattsville master plan anticipated an intense scale of development the market will not bear. “A lot of the ideas put forth in that plan are not exactly feasible anymore,” said Reynolds, noting the plan predates the 2008 Recession by two years. “We want to be ready when the market is there.”

Further, Kipling said the 2006 plan is also heavily tilted toward design guidelines.

Hyattsville group appeal recent Magruder Pointe decisions

A group of Hyattsville residents hope either the Prince George’s County Council or a county judge will overturn recent Planning Board approvals related to the controversial Magruder Pointe development. If the project goes forward, developers Werrlein Properties will build a total of 71 homes on the site, a mix of townhomes and detached homes. The property, which sits near the soon-to-be-renamed Magruder Park in central Hyattsville, once housed the original headquarters of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. This past June, The Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved detailed site plans for one half of the property, or 31 homes, split between 16 townhomes and 15 detached homes. This approval of the detailed site plans – as well as the April 2020 approval of a preceeding preliminary plan of subdivision for the project – came under the shadow of a still-unresolved judicial review of a June 10, 2019, rezoning decision from the Planning Board related to the case.

College Park preps for special election, considers charter changes for candidates

College Park city officials are preparing for a special election to fill a forthcoming vacancy from City Councilor P.J. Brennan, who represents District Two. Brennan, who was first elected to City Council in 2013, announced his resignation is late July. The resignation was prompted by an upcoming move to a new home in the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park, outside his district. Brennan’s vacancy is effective Sept. 30, 2020.

Hyattsville trash goes electric

Hyattsville will be buying a new garbage truck. Normally. that’s not really Route 1 Reporter newsworthy. But this garbage truck is electrically powered, making Hyattsville something of a pioneer in the still-burgeoning field of electric utility vehicles. 

At its Aug. 10, 2020, City Council meeting, Hyattsville elected officials approved a proposal to spend $380,000 on a new BYD Motors 6R Electric Refuse Truck. 

“It’s slightly smaller than our normal trucks.

Mount Rainier launches COVID rent, food assistance programs

The city of Mount Rainier has launched its own emergency assistance fund to help residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic disruptions to buy groceries and pay rent and utility bills, at least while supplies last. The programs were unveiled at Mount Rainier’s Aug. 19, 2020, City Council meeting by City Manager Latasha Gatling. Under the program, approved residents can receive a one-time payment of up to $1,000 to help pay off overdue rent or utility payments, paid directly to the landlord or utility company. Applicants must prove they reside in the city of Mount Rainier and must show evidence of need, and must demonstrate that the need for assistance was related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Further, applicants must provide copies of bills or late-notices for rent or mortgage delinquencies.

College Park’s [whiter, older homeowner] residents say there’s too much development

At a special Aug. 19, 2020, meeting, College Park City Council received a briefing on a community feedback effort designed to help guide city policymakers develop a five-year  strategic plan for the city. 

Many of the findings are either not-surprising or noncontroversial: respondents liked College Park’s green spaces, they liked the local transit options, and they liked the city’s diversity. Some of the findings caught some members of City Council by surprise: fears of over-development were a repeated theme of the report, as well as complaints about the relationship between the city and the University of Maryland, and a desire for both local government and local businesses to cater more to “year-round” residents. 

“You see the tension between town and gown here,” said Councilor John Rigg during the meeting, who noted some respondents really liked the entertainment and restaurant options while “they also react negatively to other things that accompany having a major university in their town.”

The report was produced by Performance Breakthroughs, a Virginia-based firm that focuses on organizational and business consulting. While the firm has a roster of local and federal government clients on its resumé, the company’s marketing emphasizes its approach on more internal organizational issues such as leadership, worker relations, customer service, succession planning and project management. If the firm has experience in municipal planning – or more importantly – public opinion research at a hyperlocal scale, it doesn’t make that a central part of its sales brochure.