Update: Beltway Plaza Planning Board decision delayed

The Prince George’s County Planning Board delayed until Feb. 20, 2020, consideration of preliminary plans for Beltway Plaza’s proposed redevelopment. The vote to delay occurred at the Planning Board’s Feb. 6, 2020, meeting. The delay was sought by the mall’s owners to give time for the city of Greenbelt to weigh in on the matter, which it is expected to do at its Feb.

Transparency? Hyattsville refuses to talk tasers with Route 1 Reporter

Last year, Leonard Shand was killed in a hail of gunfire by police in Hyattsville after a 30-minute walking standoff. That day, before the shooting, police tried unsuccessfully to tase Shand three times. That aspect of the events leading up to Shand’s death led Route 1 Reporter to file a Public Information Act request with city officials seeking documents quantifying and detailing all taser misfires between January 2010 and December 2018. Earlier this week, after paying $480 in fees (thank you subscribers), Hyattsville officials turned over dozens of pages of use-of-force reports and technical reports filed by city police officers. 

Now, Hyattsville officials say they decline to speak with Route 1 Reporter about the contents of those documents. That should be troubling for government transparency advocates and police reform activists looking for the city to make good on its “commitment to transparency”. 

Already, Hyattsville city officials have been selective with their disclosures about the incident in a cynical attempt to manage public relations.

Prince George’s new fire chief breaks glass ceiling

Prince George’s County’s 13th fire chief is Tiffany Green, the first woman to hold the position. Green was sworn in Tuesday at a ceremony in Upper Marlboro, fetted by county officials including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. 

Green is a 21-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department. She succeeds Benjamin Barksdale, who retired in 2019. 

“When I started in this department in 1999, the concept of a female fire chief was unheard of,” said Green during remarks after her swearing in. “I am noroed to be your fire chief. I have sat where you are.

300-unit Northgate gets final approval

Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved final plans for a nearly-300-unit student housing complex near the intersection of Berwyn Road and Baltimore Avenue in College Park. The site is currently home to an abandoned restaurant and a Burger King. The vote took place at its Jan. 30 meeting after being continued from the Jan. 23 meeting.

News blues: Prince George’s Sentinel newspaper closes, leaving big hole in local coverage

The Prince George’s Sentinel newspaper is gone. The Sentinel, which had covered the county for nearly 90 years, joined its Montgomery County sister paper and published their final editions Thursday. The move was announced earlier in January by publisher Lynn Kapiloff, who said the twin papers had not been profitable for more than a decade. 

Now, suddenly, vast swaths of Prince George’s County have become a true news desert, with no reliable source of professional reporting on public affairs. While the quality and consistency of the Prince George’s Sentinel’s reporting left something to be desired, the Seabrook-based paper reliably dispatched journalists to all corners of the county in search of news. In the last two weeks alone, its journalists filed stories eminating from Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Upper Marlboro, Temple Hills, Oxon Hill, College Park, Bowie, New Carrolton, and Lanham.

College Park changes trash laws

After hours of debate, College Park City Council approved twin measures that will bring sweeping changes to the city’s “special” and “bulk” trash pickup policies and fee structure. But because of a last-minute amendment put forth by Councilor Robert Day, City Council approved changes to the fee schedule with a phase-in period where no penalties or fees would be assessed for those violating the new rules. At the end of the phase-in period, Council would have an opportunity to revisit the ordinance and consider changes. The amendment caused two council members, John Rigg and P.J. Brennan, to withdraw their support the measure, with Rigg saying it had been gutted and kicked down the road. 

“We’ll be debating this again in a year,” said Rigg after the votes were counted. What happened

City Council passed two measures dealing with non-standard trash issues.

College Park Marriott gets preliminary approval

Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved preliminary plans for a new hotel near the College Park Metro station. The action took place at its Jan. 23, 2020, meeting, with relatively little discussion. 

The 126,000 square-foot hotel is planned for a triangular-shaped 2.1-acre parcel bound by Campus Drive, Corporal Frank Scott Drive and Lehigh Road practically across the street from the College Park-University of Maryland Metro Station. The hotelier, through Republic Properties Corp. and its holding company New Hotel LLC, plans to build a 165-unit hotel with 8,000 square feet of retail space. 

The project is sited within the College Park-Riverdale Park Transit District Development Overlay Zone, a zoning district similar to the Prince Georges Plaza Transit District Development Overlay Zone designed to encourage developers to create mixed-use, walkable, urban neighborhoods. In addition to the Metro station, construction on the New Carrolton to Bethesda Purple Line light-rail is underway literally across the street from the site of the planned hotel.

Mount Rainier library re-opens with new look, new tech

After more than year closed, Mount Rainier’s little library branch has re-opened. During a standing-room-only grand-opening ceremony held Jan. 27, 2020, city officials hailed the library – officially named the Karl A. Young Library after a longtime local fire chief who died suddenly – as an essential, beloved public space for the community. “This represents what we are striving for in Mount Rainier,” said Mayor Malinda Miles during the ceremony. “It speaks volumes to what a city and staff and mayor and council can do when they have partnerships.”

The library is unique in Prince George’s County that the building is owned and maintained by the city of Mount Rainier, which allows the library system to operate within.