Mount Rainier went local with its new police chief, hiring interim Chief Linwood Alston for the role, city officials announced March 31. Alston’s permanent appointment fills a vacancy left by the departure of former city top cop Anthony Morgan, who resigned in February to take a new job as the chief of police for Humboldt State University in California.
If seen through, the new property tax class would permit City Council to tax small apartment properties at different rates than other classes of real estate in the city, with an eye toward lowering their tax rate below that charged for larger apartment complexes. But the idea has a major policy obstacle to overcome to win the support of City Council members, who otherwise seem in favor of the concept.
Mount Rainier and Brentwood police departments said they deployed extra police officers at key intersections along Eastern Avenue and Route 1 as a show of force to disuade pro-Trump “caravans” from entering and causing disturbances in local neighborhoods as they returned to hotels along the Route 1 corridor.
Mount Rainier’s budget was boosted by $487,000 found unaccounted for in the city’s bank accounts. For a city with an annual budget of about $7 million, it’s good news in an era when other local governments are bracing for steep declines in tax revenue as a result of the pandemic. Now, city officials are weighing a bill that would use the money for staff pay hikes, facility repairs, and economic development programs.
According to interim city manager Latasha Gatling, the city was unaware it had this money. Gatling provided cursory details of the surprise surplus during a Dec. 1, 2020 City Council discussion of a budget amendment to allocate the windfall.
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.
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.
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.
Mount Rainier officials expect the solar panels atop city hall to generate around $100,000 for the city over the next year. That’s a big chunk of change for the city, which – due to a stale email address – earned nothing from the solar panels for the better part of a decade. The news was announced at Mount Rainier’s Sept. 2, 2020, City Council meeting by Councilor Bryan Knedler, who spearheaded the effort to get the panels installed in 2011. According to Knedler, the panels generated about $7,000 for the city last month.
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.