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.

Jim Crow deleted from Hyattsville park deed

Segregationist Jim Crow-era clauses restricting Magruder Park for Hyattsville’s “caucasian” residents have been deleted from the deed underlying the city park. Now, Hyattsville City Council could decide on a new name for Magruder Park as soon as December, according to new details of a renaming process announced during Hyattsville City Council’s Sept. 21, 2020, meeting. Calls to rename the park date to 2018, with critics noting much of the park was donated in the 1920s by its namesake William Pinkney Magruder with deed clauses restricting the use of the park to “caucasians.” While those deed clauses were rendered unenforceable by a 1948 Supreme Court ruling, they remained on the books until very recently. 

In August, Hyattsville City Council directed city staff to move forward with a process to gather new name suggestions. Those names would then be vetted by two Hyattsville advisory committees, including the city’s Race and Equity Task Force and the city’s Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee.

West Hyattsville master plan overhaul kicks off

A new master-planning overhaul for the West Hyattsville Metro Station has been officially started. At its Sept. 17, 2020, meeting, the Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved a resolution detailing the process and timeline for county planning officials to develop a new sector plan for the neighborhoods surrounding West Hyattsville Metro Station. A draft version of the plan could be ready for comment by June 2022. After that, a public hearing to discuss the draft master plan is slated for September 2022, followed by preliminary Planning Board adoption votes iin December 2022.

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’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.