Mount Rainier hires interim city manager

Mount Rainier has hired an interim city manager to head up the town’s administration as it looks for a full-timer to take on the role. The new city manager is Latasha Gatling, a former town councilor and, later, a town administrator for the city of Seat Pleasant and a former liason with the Prince George’s County Council. Gatling’s first day on the job is Nov. 19, 2019. 

College Park Council gives Metro Marriott thumbs up

College Park City Council unanimously lent its support to a preliminary plan to build a new, 165-room Marriott Hotel near the city’s Metro station. The preliminary plan now goes before the Prince George’s County Planning Board, which will consider the matter at its January 9, 2020, meeting.

Update: Werrlein’s Magruder Pointe plans get court date

It will be at least until February before the future of the former WSSC headquarters in Hyattsville is known. Developer Werrlein Properties Inc., has plans to build a mix of townhomes and detached homes on the property. But the project, dubbed Magruder Pointe and which received county approval for its conceptual plans earlier this year, has been tied up in the courts as both the city of Hyattsville and a group of nearby residents have turned to the courts to overturn that approval. In a procedural step, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge John Davey combined the two cases into one in a ruling issued Nov. 4, 2019.

Prince George’s unemployment ticks down in September

By Amelia Jarecke

The Prince George’s County unemployment is down compared to last September, matching the lowest rate the county has seen in the past year, according to the Department of Labor statistics released at the end of last month. The 3.6 percent unemployment rate for this September compared to a rate of 3.8 percent in the same month a year earlier. The last time the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent was in April. This January, the county’s unemployment rate climbed to 4.7 percent. Since then it has fluctuated, but now is one-tenth of a percent below the unemployment rate of the entire state. 

Maryland’s unemployment rate of 3.7 percent matches the lowest level the state has experienced in the past decade, according to the Department of Labor.

Knox Road student housing project gets preliminary approval

A redevelopment proposal that would level a retail strip in downtown College Park to build hundreds of new student apartments has taken a key step forward. 

At its Nov. 7, 2019, meeting the Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved a preliminary plan of subdivision for the Knox Road Development. The developers, Terrapin Development Co. – a for-profit real estate development firm created to sell university property – and Greystar Real Estate Partners., plan to build 340 new student-housing units and build 32,000 square feet of ground-floor retail into the project. The proposal would raze a small half-block retail strip just off Baltimore Avenue.

Sub-urban: Hyattsville grapples with gas station stone’s throw from Metro

Hyattsville City Council voted 10-to-one to recommend county officials impose a slew of conditions on a proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Sunoco gas station next to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station. The proposal is controversial from a policy perspective. The gas station is located in the heart of zoning area designed to encourage dense, walkable, mixed-use development to surround the Metro station. The entire area is marketed as Hyattsville’s second downtown, and according to city planners – as well as years of City Council policymaking – auto-oriented uses such as gas stations and drive-throughs are not permitted to be built or, for those that already exist, are not allowed to significantly expand. Hyattsville City Council’s vote came after the developer submitted a revised application that dramatically reduced the size of the planned retail and office building for the project.

College Park voters to weigh City Council term changes

College Park voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote for new city council members. But the votes that may have the biggest long-term impact focus less on candidates and more on the city’s government structure. In College Park, voters will consider two questions designed to inform the next City Council will proceed with changes to the city charter to extend Council terms from two years to four, and to weigh the merits of staggered or concurrent terms for City Council. Currently all College Park City Council members are elected to two year terms, with every seat up for election every cycle. The ballot will contain the following language and ballot options:

The Mayor and Council of the City of College Park currently serve two-year terms. They are seeking your input on two questions: 1) Should there be two- or four-year terms?

Is a gas station needed near Prince George’s Plaza Metro?

Hyattsville City Council will consider a controversial proposal to demolish the gas station at Belcrest Road and East-West Highway so that a larger gas station can be built in its place. The proposal is controversial for several reasons. The biggest reason is that the redevelopment project is located smack dab in the center of the Prince George’s Plaza Transit Overlay Zone, a special zoning category designed to create a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood befitting the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station. 

Gas stations, as a result, are not permitted under those zoning rules. However, this gas station, a Sunoco built in 1961, is grandfathered in. An existing gas station, such as the Sunoco, would be allowed to build a small expansion, but generally cannot expand its building fooprint by more than 15 percent.