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College Park Forgoes Appeal of Cafritz Decision

Mayor Andrew Fellows broke a tie vote of the City Council Tuesday night.

The College Park City Council rejected a motion Tuesday night to appeal  of the Cafritz property rezoning plan.

Mayor Andrew Fellows broke a tie vote of the council, which split 4-4 on the measure. The city faced an Aug. 17 deadline to file an appeal.

Councilmembers Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1), Monroe Dennis (Dist. 2), Robert Day (Dist. 3), and Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3) supported an appeal, while councilmembers Fazul Kabir (Dist. 1), Bob Catlin (Dist. 2), Marcus Afzali (Dist. 3), and Denise Mitchell (Dist. 4) were opposed.

Though Mitchell and Afzali both voted against the project , Afzali said Tuesday that he did not support the use of municipal resources for an appeal.

"I don't think we're actually doing any good for the city by this," he explained, citing legal expenses and expected court challenges by individual residents.

"This is not the end of the process … it's a very long process, and [there are] multiple other points to actually make this appeal," Afzali added.

Fellows said he opposed the Cafritz plan but was confident that an appeal "would still go forward" even if the city didn't jump in.

But Stullich, who introduced the resolution, said it was important for College Park "to take a consistent and principled stand on this issue."

"It would be wrong for us to say 'We're just going to a take a pass because we're just going to rely on this group of individual citizens,'" Stullich said.

Under the Cafritz plan—, 7-2, on July 10—a 36-acre parcel on the north end of Riverdale Park is set to be rezoned from single-family detached residential (R-55) to mixed-use town center (M-UTC). 

If the approval withstands court challenges, the developer intends to build some 900 units of housing, a 35,000-square-foot Whole Foods, a 120-room hotel, and additional office and retail space.

Per conditions attached to the approval, the developer must clear several other hurdles before construction can begin, including a traffic study, a preliminary plan of subdivision, a detailed site plan, subdivision plats, and certain benchmarks for building a road bridge over the neighboring CSX tracks.

Supporters say the project will spur economic growth and bring a desirable mix of retail and residential development to the area. Critics charge that the plan will impose extreme fiscal, environmental, and traffic pressure on the surrounding communities.

Half a dozen College Park residents spoke at Tuesday's meeting, each voicing support for an appeal.

"I would really ask you to appeal it and demand a reasonable and practical solution to Route 1," said Jim McFadden.

Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer and Councilmember Jonathan Ebbeler (Ward 1) also spoke, asking their College Park counterparts to refrain from a court challenge.

"I would certainly like to go back to the table with a united municipal voice to move forward on this project," Archer said.

Marcus Afzali August 15, 2012 at 02:21 PM
All of the information we have recieved on this was that a group of residents was planning to file an appeal regardless of what the city did. The city was not letting residents "pick up the cost," but not spending money on an effort that was already going to occur without the city's efforts anyway. It does not matter who files the appeal, all that matters for a judge is the actual arguments in the appeal.
Marcus Afzali August 15, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I think its also important to note that while the cost of this particular appeal was brought up, it was not the primary argument for voting against the appeal, simply one reason on a long list of reasons.
Jonathan Ebbeler August 15, 2012 at 08:32 PM
The request for judicial review by the circuit court would not halt the process. That would require filing for a stay by an aggrieved party at which time it is likely that they would be required to pay for an injunction bond to the tune of 10s of millions of dollars. Since neither private citizens nor municipalities are likely to come up with the money it would follow the normal judicial review and appeals court process. Filing a request for review by the circuit court does not prevent the developer from moving forward and building out the site. Last night's vote removed the legal conflict of interest between CP and RP/UP that since January required CP's legal counsel to recuse herself.
Michael B. Cron August 16, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Having a united front is paramount in making sure that the Cafritz Project when built will be the best that it can be even though I do not personally support it. Having multi town council oversight committees are key to making sure the developer honors what they agreed upon with the surrounding municipalities. It is our job as members of these oversight committees to enforce the time table of the "triggers" that were stipulated in the agreement. If we miss any detail during any phase of this project, we will have to live with the negative results. Again fighting this project would be a losing battle. That is why we must all concentrate on making sure that this project does not negatively impact our lives and communities.
Peggy Anne August 18, 2012 at 03:56 AM
I like the trees. Let the trees live there. Who needs more housing ?? Why should the cash crop be more and more people piled on top of each other ? I would hate to see the surrounding area even more frantic and congested. Hasn't it been through enough "restructuring" ? I wish I could turn the clock back to 1954.

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