Citing concerns over transparency and timeliness, the Hyattsville City Council took no action on a motion to approve a proposed rezoning request for the Kiplinger property which could pave the way for a significant redevelopment of the 3400 block of East West Highway.
"Most of us first heard of this between Friday and today, and this is a proposal which has the potential to increase the city's population 10 percent in one fell swoop," said Councilor Shani Warner (Ward 2) echoing concerns raised by Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3). "I don't think anyone is in a position to say, 'okay, go ahead' by the deadline we have."
The property owners had hoped to secure the council's blessing before today to include in an application to be submitted to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission seeking approval of an early conceptual site plan (think of it like a rough sketch of what could be built on the site) required for the rezoning. Attorneys for the property owners had requested that the M-NCPPC include the item on their next agenda. Without the city council's approval, that plan may have to be revisited.
"The case was on the tentative agenda for the planning board for Feb. 28, the property needs to be posted 30 days before that, so they [the M-NCPPC] like to have all the comments in by then," said William Shipp, attorney for the property owners. "But we don't know if we have any different schedule yet. We have to keep working with the city and working with the county."
Since 1960, the property has been owned by the trade publication company Kiplinger Washington Editors. The 11.6 acres of land and the 20,000 square foot building on it was once a hub of the local printing and publishing industry. At its height, more than 1,000 workers earned their keep at the facility according to Shipp. The Washington Post still operates a newspaper distribution facility there, which, aside from once aptly-named Editor's Park Drive, is the only remaining vestige of the site's ties to the printing and publishing industries.
The property is currently zoned as "commercial-shopping center". The property owners want to rezone the property for "mixed-use-transit" oriented developments.
Clouding last night's discussion of the project was confusion about the scale of the proposed redevelopments. Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4), along with city resident Jen Kubit expressed concern during the meeting that a tall, 12 story building on the site would seem out of character in the neighborhood.
However, according to Jim Chandler, director of Hyattsville's Department of Community and Economic Development, was confused where this idea of proposed a mammoth building was coming from.
"I see nothing that says 12 stories in their proposals," said Chandler.
Chandler went on to note that the property lies in an area of the Prince George's Plaza Transit District Overlay Zone which requires that buildings be built to heights between four and 12 stories.
"They obviously have latitude within that four to 12 range," said Chandler. "But if they are proposing a four to six story building in their conceptual site plan, and later in the detailed site plan they come back with a 12 story plan, that will trigger a review of their conceptual site plan."
Such an action would be costly to the property owners, said Chandler
While specific building plans have not yet been developed for the site, property owners have circulated a proposed conceptual site plan which calls for the development of an 870 unit apartment building with a parking deck and 34,211 square feet of commercial and retail space.
How that would all fit together is still in flux. The early conceptual site plan envisions the retail space on the west end of the development, facing Home Depot. Planners at the county and city level have asked the property owners to consider orienting the retail and commercial space towards East-West Highway.