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WSSC Lot to be Gated Off

Owner of parking lot popular with student drivers tells city officials that lot will soon be locked down.

Following a contentious debate about the use of the former Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission parking lot bordering Magruder Park, city officials announced yesterday that the owners of the parking lot would be taking steps to lock down the property. 

"The current property owner intends to gate the two entrances to the property," reads an announcement posted to the Hyattsville city website yesterday afternoon. "It is expected that the gates will be installed by the end of September, if not sooner. The purpose of the gates is to restrict vehicular access except when authorized."

According to the announcement, an update on issue will be provided at an upcoming city council meeting. The next scheduled Hyattsville city council meeting is slated for Monday, Oct. 1.

Following discussion during this past Monday's city council meeting, council members directed staff to contact Douglas Development, the company which owns the lot, to try to address the issue of student drivers using the lot as a practice track. 

The use of the lot by student drivers had become a concern for some members of the Hyattsville city council, especially Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3), after at least two incidents where cars reportedly crashed into or crashed through a fence separating the parking lot from a playground at Magruder Park.

s September 20, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I wonder what they are going to do with that property in the long run. It's a lot of land. Condos?
Mark Ferguson September 20, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Scot - Virtually all of the land on which the parking lot lies is located within the 100-year floodplain. This condition severely restricts its ability to be redeveloped.
susie September 20, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Great news. Any idea if Douglas Development will also post no trespassing signs and give permission to the police to deal with trespassers?
Kristina Iverson September 20, 2012 at 01:26 PM
What about relocating the farmer's market to here on the weekends?
BigDan September 20, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Douglas would never approve..anyone gets hurt and they sue Douglas. I wonder why they bother holding on to that property...I wonder why Hyattsville doesn't fine them for the sorry state of the WSSC building (broken windows, etc)
s September 20, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Great idea!
Bea September 20, 2012 at 02:27 PM
So, why not extend Magruder Park???? The playground part of it could use an upgrade. Similar to the one just completed at Wheaton Regional Park? To just have the lot siitng there untouched and gated up is an eye soar. And for the WSSC building to have been sitting there for the past 20 years with the broken windows , etc , is also. What is the point of buying property just to hold on to it and not being able to "develop it" ? Then put restrictions on it to try and catch memebers of the community tresspassing on it? REALLY DOUGLAS??? I love the idea of relocating the farmers market to there. Having on NHS is not good being that it has grown so much and parking has become an issue. It was a perfect staging area for the Hyattsville parade we just had this year, and the carnival too. WHAT GIVES!!!!
Vanessa Robertson September 20, 2012 at 03:29 PM
REMINDER: The reason they are gating it off is mainly because of Council member Tim Hunt. There was almost a fight at the meeting because he didn't want the student drivers using it. He said one of them might have an accident and might kill someone on the playground (or something like that). From what I can tell Douglas Development is just trying not to get sued NOT trying to catch members of the community for trespassing.
Kristina Iverson September 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
We need to take some cues from other successful neighbors... like Takoma Park and even Old Town Alexandria. Their weekend farmer's markets are very successful and provide wonderful opportunities for local vendors and artisans and food providers. Part of the problem with the Hyattsville and Riverdale farmer's markets is that they are during the weekday and end about the time most get off work. We have such a wonderful community of artisans and places like EcoCity Farms- it's a shame we don't have a huge market. As for options- the city could purchase the lot from the developer, or impose eminent domain- which is very common- and the land could be provided for public or civic use including extending Magruder Park and/or holding events like a Farmer's Market. MNCPPC should have no problem finding solutions and making it a wonderful use for the City instead of a liability.
s September 20, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Love it Kristina. Love it!
JC September 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM
If I remember correctly, the flea market that is now at Northwestern used to be held in the WSSC parking lot but was moved for some reason. The property has long been a point of contention in Hyattsville, but Douglas Development has a habit of buying and holding onto properties (case in point, all of downtown Riverdale, the former Uline Arena in NE DC, etc.). I would love to see the building redeveloped into a community use and the parking lot turned into a farmers market, additional park space, etc. But our current city council can barely function and do what they are supposed to do, let alone put pressure on developers.
Mark G September 21, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I agree that a weekend Farmer's Market would be great for the area but of course the farmers can't be everywhere on the weekends and they will chose to go to the places where they can sell the most produce. It would be great if the lot owned by Mr Jemal could become part of an expanded Magruder Park but it is hard to see how the city can take on any more property or projects, right now. Maybe Jemal would be willing to trade the former WSSC building and parking lot for the former BB&T building and a first-round draft choice?
John September 23, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Lot gated, lock broken. There are currently 5 cars and a motorcycle driving around the lot on this Sunday afternoon.
Michael Theis September 23, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Interesting. How long was the lot gated for before it was broken into?
John September 23, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I noticed the gate was there a few days ago, the next day there were cars driving in it again. To be completely honest I am only assuming the lock was actually broken. I can see it from my apartment window and there is a chain dangling down from both sides of the open gate, but I haven't actually gone down to see if it was broken or just unlocked.
Chris Currie September 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Douglas Development won't give or sell the lot to the City or County because he wants it as a bargaining chip if/when it comes time to get approvals for a development project. The idea of taking it by eminent domain has been around for quite awhile (I championed it when I was on the Council several years ago), but it would require a determined City Council. Right now, the Council is mired in internecine disputes and it's hard to imagine that they would get together to take on a fairly gutsy (but hugely beneficial) project like this.
MNichols September 27, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Is there a law that people can't practice driving next to parks?
Michael Theis September 27, 2012 at 06:39 PM
No, but there is a legal prohibition against trespassing on private property, which the folks at Douglas Development are invoking. The lot is on private land, and the solution ended up being to bar people from the parking lot itself.
John October 20, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Gate was knocked down a few days ago. Cars are back practicing in the lot. Gate lasted 3 weeks, longer than I expected it would.

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