As written, Hyattsville Backyard Chicken Act lacks votes

Without major changes, a majority of Hyattsville City Council opposes a proposal to “legalize” backyard chickens in the city. At its March 2, 2020, meeting, Hyattsville City Council again discussed proposed legislation from Councilor Danny Schaible that would eliminate provisions in the city code that prohibit residents from owning chickens and other domestic fowl. But the proposed legislation was not amended from the last time City Council discussed the matter, when several City Council members expressed concerns that simply deleting the existing prohibitions without creating a regulatory framework for backyard fowl would be irresponsible. As a result, those concerns had not changed. In all, a majority of six of Hyattsville’s 11 City Councilors expressed concerns with Schaible’s proposal during the March 2 discussion.

Hyattsville Planning Committee member rips Council over Magruder Pointe

A city planning committee member criticized Hyattsville City Council for disregarding the committee’s recommendations for the controversial Magruder Pointe development. The comments, from longtime Hyattsville resident and Council-watcher David Marshall, came as city officials await a judge’s ruling on the city’s appeal of a rezoning granted for the project. Marshall’s comments also highlight a persistent tension in the city’s deliberations around Magruder Pointe: the city’s planning committee has generally been more favorable toward the project than City Council, which is taking legal action to block, delay or change the developer’s plans. 

“We are asked to look at that project to send opinions and advice to the Council and then the Council makes the decisions,” said Marshall. “But since the Council is litigating this property and seems to have a particular vision, maybe it’s not prudent to send that project to the planning committee anymore.”

“Because it seems that what we do is of no value,” continued Marshall, who emphasized he was speaking as an individual and not for the Planning Committee. “It’s of no use on this particular project.”

Marshall went on to accuse City Council of failing, as an institution, to be more decisive about the property – the former headquarters of WSSC near Magruder Park – when earlier proposals were floated for the site. 

“The WSSC property could have been purchased by the city many years ago when WSSC still owned it…for next to nothing,” said Marshall.

Judge has tough questions for Hyattsville’s Magruder Pointe arguments

Does the Gateway Arts District float? That seems to be the central question before Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Beverly Woodard, who is now weighing an appeal filed by the city of Hyattsville challenging a rezoning granted to developers who want to build houses near Magruder Park. During a Wednesday court hearing, Woodard appeared skeptical of the city’s objections to the rezoning, peppering city attorney Skip Cornbrooks with questions he struggled to answer. For instance, Hyattsville’s main argument is that the Gateway Arts District overlay zone is not a floating zone, and that as a result, the county planning officials would have had to meet a more strict “change or mistake” rule for the rezoning to be legal. It’s a bold argument, and one that goes against how the Gateway Arts District has been used and defined over the past 20 years.

Analysis: Hyattsville willing to neuter Arts District to stop Magruder Pointe

Hyattsville goes to court today in its dispute with Werrlein Properties and the Prince George’s County District Council over a proposed development near Magruder Park. Here’s a primer on the arguments each side is using, according to court documents filed already in the case. Background

In 2019, the Prince George’s County District Council approved a conceptual site plan to develop a mix of detached and attached single-family homes on property that once housed the headquarters of WSSC, the local water utility. The project is called Magruder Pointe, and it sits next to Magruder Park in central Hyattsville. Specifically and most-controversially, District Council rezoned a former parking lot – dubbed the lower lot of the two-parcel property – from open-space to R-55, a zoning category that normally allows only detached single-family homes to be developed on lots of about 5,000 square-feet.

Update: Proposal to legalize chickens in Hyattsville delayed

Hyattsville City Council has delayed consideration of the measure. The measure was removed from the agenda late into City Council’s Feb. 18, 2020, meeting. The meeting was approaching midnight, and the measure’s sponsor pulled it from the agenda for the sake of time. The proposal is expected to come back before City Council at its next meeting.

Transparency? Hyattsville refuses to talk tasers with Route 1 Reporter

Last year, Leonard Shand was killed in a hail of gunfire by police in Hyattsville after a 30-minute walking standoff. That day, before the shooting, police tried unsuccessfully to tase Shand three times. That aspect of the events leading up to Shand’s death led Route 1 Reporter to file a Public Information Act request with city officials seeking documents quantifying and detailing all taser misfires between January 2010 and December 2018. Earlier this week, after paying $480 in fees (thank you subscribers), Hyattsville officials turned over dozens of pages of use-of-force reports and technical reports filed by city police officers. 

Now, Hyattsville officials say they decline to speak with Route 1 Reporter about the contents of those documents. That should be troubling for government transparency advocates and police reform activists looking for the city to make good on its “commitment to transparency”. 

Already, Hyattsville city officials have been selective with their disclosures about the incident in a cynical attempt to manage public relations.

Hyattsville gets $339,500 for Call-A-Bus program

Hyattsville has received a $339,500 grant to boost its accessible transportation options. The grant is from the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board for the Enhanced Mobility Grants Program. With the funds, Hyattsville officials plan to expand its curb-to-curb and shared-ride transportation by buying new wheelchair accessible buses and tweaking existing agreements with Route 1 Corridor Villages for residents of Hyattsville and neighboring communities. The initiative is a part of the City’s three-year Age-Friendly Action Plan, designed to make Hyattsville a more livable community for seniors and people with disabilities. The Age-Friendly Action Plan was adopted by Hyattsville Council in January 2019.

Hyattsville adds closed-captions to Council webcasts

Hyattsville is testing the use of real-time closed captioning for webcasts of its City Council meetings. The move is notable in Prince George’s County, where few local governments offer closed captioning or picture-in-picture sign-language interpretation of their broadcast proceedings. Prince George’s County Council, Planning Board and Board of Education don’t offer such a service. Among Prince George’s County’s 27 municipalities, only Laurel, Greenbelt, and now Hyattsville offer closed-captioning of their proceedings. Cheverly offers picture-in-picture sign-language interpreters.

Hyattsville and backyard chickens: It’s complicated

Don’t build a chicken coop yet, Hyattsville. It looks like legalizing backyard chickens is going to be more complicated than simply amending the city’s ban on them. At its Jan 21, 2020, Hyattsville City Council meeting, several city officials had issues with the proposal, sponsored by Councilor Daniel Schaible, highlighting in particular that Prince George’s County law still bans backyard domestic fowl. During discussion, concerns were raised about how Hyattsville would govern backyard chickens if municipal prohibitions on them were removed. The long answer, made short, from city officials: it’d be in the hands of County officials to deal with.