Prelim plans for Cheverly Amazon facility approved

Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved preliminary plans for a massive Amazon warehouse facility just outside Cheverly. Built on nearly 18 acres of land, the project – dubbed Washington Gateway – will see a one-story, 172,200 square-foot “last mile distribution center” built near the intersection of Columbia Park Road and Cabin Branch Drive southeast of Cheverly. 

The vote took place at the Planning Board’s July 16, 2020 meeting. The project, from industrial developer Prologis, has been controversial in Cheverly, with neighbors in the town’s fourth word concerned about possible traffic impacts from the distribution facility. You can read more about their concerns here. Kayce Munyeneh, Cheverly’s Ward Four City Councilor noted a small neighborhood of 50 homes is near the site of the proposed facility. 

“Our primary concern is safety and making sure that Amazon trucks do not decide to use 62nd and 62st as a cut-through,” said Munyeneh during the meeting.

A middle-aged African-American woman with gray hair and a white, short-sleeved shirt sits at a table during a meeting of some kind.

Robinson sues Mount Rainier for $1.5 million over alleged ‘racist’ records request blowback

Charnette Robinson is suing the city of Mount Rainier for $1.5 million. The suit alleges Robinson’s rights were violated in 2019 when City Councilor Celina Benitez issued an open letter on social media characterizing an earlier Public Information Act records request from Robinson as “a racist pursuit.” Robinson’s records request, filed February 2019, sought a variety of documents regarding city officials, including information about the citizenship status of city elected officials. In a March 2019 open letter, Benitez – a Hispanic immigrant and naturalized citizen – described the records request as “no better than a racist pursuit for a president’s birth certificate.” These incidents occurred in the run-up to the May 2019 Mount Rainier City Council elections, which saw Robinson challenge the incumbent Benitez for her Ward One seat.

Data: See which Prince George’s businesses got Paycheck Protection Loans

As the coronavirus delivered a shock to the local economy, 9,442 Prince George’s County businesses and nonprofits received emergency loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, including 1,447 loans valued between $150,000 to $10 million, according to data released by the Small Business Administration last week. Below this article, Route 1 Reporter presents a database that allows you to search for any Prince George’s County entity that received loans greater than $150,000 under the program. 

The official dataset has been criticized for not providing enough information about the loans. For example: information on loans greater than $150,000 identifies the recipients by name, but only provides a broad range for the loan each received, in buckets ranging from between $150,000 to $350,000 to the top-tier, which received loans of between $5 million and $10 million. Meanwhile, exact dollar amounts for loans less than $150,000 were noted for every recipient, but their names were kept under wraps. 

Additionally, transparency advocates – as well as many loan recipients – have complained the data released by the SBA contains inaccuracies. In particular, SBA officials said inconsistent data-collection practices show many loan recipients to reporting zero jobs were retained with the funds.

Q2 sees prime Route 1 properties trade hands

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a busy few months for property sales along the Route 1 corridor in Prince George’s County. Several major commercial and multi-family properties have traded hands in the second quarter of the year, according to state property records. The biggest transaction of the quarter in the Route 1 corridor belongs to Varsity Apartments in College Park, which traded hands for $146,022,026 in a sale recorded March 27, 2020. The 900-bed property was bought by Greystar Properties from American Campus Communities. Greystar Properties also plans a 343-unit student housing development on Knox Road in College Park.

Data: As Prince George’s enters ‘full’ phase 2, covid cases decline steadily

Today, Prince George’s County crosses a milestone in its struggle to contain the local spread of coronavirus. At 5 p.m., June 29, 2020, the county will enter a “full phase two” reopening of county businesses. The move will allow gyms, fitness centers, casinos, shopping malls, spas and tattoo partners may re-open for business, with restrictions. 

But last week, Prince George’s County crossed another milestone in the local fight against covid-19. For the first time since April, the rolling 14-day average count of daily new cases dropped below 100 cases per day. This happened on June 26, 2020.

Prince George’s County gets high marks from bond underwriters

Despite facing significant a projected loss of $130 million in revenue heading into the next fiscal year at the end of June, major financial ratings agencies have maintained Prince George’s County’s triple-A bond rating. The news was announced by Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks June 15, 2020. According to the announcement, financial ratings agencies Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poors all gave top marks to the county. A bond rating like a credit score for a government. A good bond rating, and a triple-A score is good, is helpful to have if you plan any major debt-financed projects because it gets you access to lower-interest loans.

Coronavirus stats continue downward trend in Maryland, Prince George’s

At least 57,973 Marylanders have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of pandemic, according to data released June 7 by the Maryland Department of Health. That’s equivalent to roughly 10 cases for every 1,000 residents, statewide. But the number of positive tests reported by the state in the past 14 days, a metric Route 1 Reporter has been tracking, has continued to trend down. According to state data, there were 10,821 positive tests in the past 14 days as of June 7. The last time this number was below 11,000 was late April.

Prince George’s ‘Phase Two’ re-opening could begin June 15

Prince George’s County could enter a “modified phase two reopening” June 15. But that’s only if current, declining trends in county coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations hold steady, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Thursday evening. “We are encouraged by the trends we are seeing in our data since announcing our modified phase one reopening, but we must remain vigilant,” said Alsobrooks. 

According to Alsobrook’s announcement, a modified phase two reopening will allow for the partial re-opening of personal services, outdoor recreation, retail establishments, food establishments and houses of worship. Prince George’s County Health Department will be tracking coronavirus test positivity rates, deaths, hospitalizations and hospital bed capacity as it prepares to make a final determination. Prince George’s County entered a modified “phase one” re-opening June 1.

Maryland covid numbers hold steady as test rate, hospitalizations decrease

Nearly 52,800 Marylanders have been diagnosed with coronavirus, with 13,016 cases diagnosed in the two weeks before May 31, 2020, according to the latest data from the Maryland Department of Health. The two-week population of cases continues to plateau, not moving much even after testing was expanded to individuals without symptoms.

Statewide, the positivity rate for coronavirus testing is dropping persistently. As of May 31, 2020, the statewide positive test rate is 10.9 percent, the lowest level seen since April 15, 2020. Maryland has now conducted 348,773 COVID-19 tests, including 9,412 tests over the 24 hours before May 31, 2020. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, with positivity rates still above the rest of the state, continue to see steady decreases.