Hyattsville wants clarity for brewpubs in new zoning code

Hyattsville officials are pushing for a small change to the county’s new zoning code to clarify rules around microbreweries and other small-scale alcohol production facilities with restaurants. The crux of the matter is the new zoning code section regulating restaurants and bars requires those with “small scale” alcohol production facilities to devote a minimum of either 1,500 square feet or 45 percent of their total square footage – whichever is greater – to the actual serving of food and drinking of drinks. 

Hyattsville city officials want county officials to add language exempting businesses located in “adaptive reuse” buildings or where “the interior layout of the building makes compliance impractical.”

Specifically to Hyattsville, ambiguity in this area of the regulations could affect a number of businesses. Over the past several years, a number of small alcohol producers, including a meadery, a distillery, and several microbreweries, have set up shop in the city, many in buildings that predate these businesses. Potentially, the new regulations could cause permitting issues in the future, though city staff admitted it would require one to interpret the regulations counter to their intent. 

“We certainly have a few restaurants with alcohol uses within the city that are utilizing older buildings. Many of these buildings are close to 100 years old, and they are adaptive re-uses of buildings” said Jim Chandler, Hyattsville’s Economic Development Director, during a discussion of the proposed tweak at Hyattsville’s Nov.

Adelphi neighborhoods to get new master plan

Prince George’s County officials are developing a new master plan to guide development policy near the planned Adelphi Road Purple Line Station in College Park – despite the contractural uncertainty around the transit project. At its Oct. 29, 2020, meeting, Prince George’s County Planning Board approved a measure authorizing planning staff to launch a master planning process for a 163-acre area surrounding the future transit station. The study area is centered on the intersection of Adelphi Road and University Boulevard, and includes parts of Hyattsville, College Park, and unincorporated Adelphi. That area is home to several mid-century suburban tract housing developments.

Metro wants feedback on Prince George’s Plaza name change

Regional transit officials want to know what you think about a potential change to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station name, along with another proposed name change for the Tysons Corner Metro Station. 

In an Oct. 27, 2020, announcement, Metro officials unveiled a survey to gather public sentiment about the proposed name changes. Prince George’s County and Hyattsville officials have requested Prince George’s Plaza station be renamed to Hyattsville Crossing. Likewise, Fairfax County officials want Tysons Corner to be simply renamed Tysons. 

Route 1 Reporter has previously written about the Prince George’s Plaza name change. In short, Hyattsville economic development officials have since 2017 tried to brand the neighborhood around the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station as Hyattsville Crossing.

Hyattsville’s 2021 election could be all vote-by-mail affair

Hyattsville City Council is considering a suite of legislation, including switching to an all vote-by-mail system, city officials hope will boost turnout in city elections. The proposal is especially topical as voters weigh their polling options amid the pandemic, which has seen several states take steps to expand access to vote-by-mail ballots. But Hyattsville’s exploration of mail-voting systems dates to late 2018. The legislation would revise the city’s charter to move the election day to the second Tuesday in May, it would shrink the timeline for election certification, and would change the process to elect the City Council President and Vice President and would switch the city’s 2021 election to a permanent vote-by-mail system. 

According to city data, from 2013 to 2019, there were an average of 10,300 registered voters in the city. In the most-recent city elections, 1,575, or roughly 15 percent, cast ballots.

Opinion: Hyattsville statement on police custody death falls short of transparency

Last week, a suspected bicycle thief died after being arrested by officers from the Hyattsville police department. But the first statement issued by Hyattsville officials on the incident lacked crucial details and showed the city still lacks the candor necessary in a new era of police accountability. The statement released by Hyattsville officials was misleading, if not outright deceptive, in its omission of details on the incident. It read that the suspect, a 29-year-old Mount Rainier man named Edwin Morales, “fell” three times during a brief pursuit with Hyattsville officers. After he was caught and placed in handcuffs, the statement says Hyattsville police called an ambulance to treat Morales for “suspected unknown drug intoxication.” Afterwards, Morales went unresponsive, and the statement says “officers immediately unhandcuffed him and began CPR.”

But, thanks to journalists at WJLA, we know that’s not the entire story.

College Park to tweak animal laws; redesign city seal

College Park City Council will redesign the city seal to make it more legible, and to remove an anachronistic cross depicted on the seal’s rendition of the University of Maryland chapel. 

According to City Manager Scott Somers, the city seal redesign was proposed by the architects and designers involved in the construction of a new College Park City Hall, which will feature a large city seal behind the council dais. The designers noted the existing city seal’s hand-drawn design does not translate well into a large format, with irregular lines becoming pronounced. They proposed a new design that straightens the lines on the finer details within the seal. During discussions about this, it was noted that the chapel on the seal has a cross, while the chapel – which has always been non-denominational – does not have a cross. 

“The City Council on numerous occasions has stated its commitment to be a City that is welcoming and open to people of all faiths and backgrounds,” reads a memo from Somers about the seal redesign. “A cross on the chapel in the City Seal could be perceived as the City supporting some religions over other religions”

The matter received little discussion during City Council’s Oct.

Hyattsville Council sets affordable housing policy goals

In its effort to develop a comprehensive set of policies around affordable housing, Hyattsville City Council will focus on four key policy goals: increasing the number of units affordable for low income households, reducing property tax burdens, closing the racial homeownership gap, and to change regulations where possible to promote affordable housing production. 

This is the result of an hour-and-a-half discussion that came during a special worksession of Hyattsville City Council during its Oct. 5, 2020 meeting. The worksession and discussion was led by staff from Enterprise Community Partners, the consulting firm hired by Hyattsville to develop its affordable housing policy strategy. The resulting discussion gave insight into how the City Council, as a whole, was approaching this task. 

“It’s incredibly helpful for the public to not just see the work prudct of the consultancy that’s engaged, but it’s good for the public to see the way we grapple with important issues,” said Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth as the discussion concluded. The purpose of the discussion was to identify and agree on four housing policy goals that the city will focus on over the next 10 years.

Trolley Trail gap construction delayed

The last time we heard about efforts to close the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail gap in Hyattsville, we were told construction could start by Fall of 2020. Well, that’s been pushed back, city officials say. According to Hyattsville City Administrator Tracey Douglas, complications with the design have pushed construction back at least to December. 

The project, undertaken by Maryland’s State Highway Administration, would close a 2,500-ish foot gap that separates the current southern terminus of the Trolley Trail from the Anacostia Trail System near Charles Armentrout Drive and Rhode Island Avenue. You can see the planning documents here. 

As originally proposed, the 10-foot-wide trail would hug the eastern border of Rhode Island Avenue between Farragut Street and Charles Armentrout Drive. Near the intersection of Charles Armentrout, SHA officials plan to install a redesigned pedestrian and cyclist crosswalk regime and motor-vehicle light cycle designed to separate each mode of user from each other. Designs for the project dating to 2019 planned to acquire property from CSX rail road to build portions of the trail connection.

Hyattsville to upgrade park toilets with $240,000 buy

Hyattsville will be spending a little bit of money to buy new, permanent public restrooms for two city parks. At its Sept. 21, 2020 City Council meeting, Hyattsville officials unanimously approved a measure allocating $240,000 to buy and install the toilets. 

The toilets are “Portland Loos,” a single-occupancy public lavatory designed by municipal workers at the City of Portland to be installed at parks, plazas and public areas around the city. Since then, the city has licensed the design to other manufacturers, and copies can be found in several cities across the U.S. The ADA-compliant stainless-steel units look like heavy-duty art-deco porta-johns. They feature an outside hand-washing station, LED and sky-lighting, and can be solar powered if wanted. 

In recent years, public policymakers have taken a renewed interest in public toilet infrastructure, which are seen as a way to reduce instances of public defecation and urination and as a way to attract visitors to parks and downtown areas.

Hyattsville opens administrative investigation into Shand shooting

Hyattsville police will be subject to a city investigation into the killing of Leonard Shand, according to City Administrator Tracey Douglas. During Hyattsville City Council’s Sept. 21, 2020, meeting, Douglass briefly discussed the matter, noting that a Prince George’s County grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in the Sept. 2019 incident. 

While the grand jury declined to indict, an outside investigation commissioned by the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office found many issues with the police response leading up to the moment officers opened fire. Despite that, the outside investigation said police were justified when they opened fire on Shand because he was armed with at least one knife and was lunging toward officers. 

During the meeting, Douglas said the report’s findings were being taken seriously by city officials.