GREENBELT – The decision on the FBI headquarters may be stalled, but the developer of the Greenbelt Metro Station is moving forward with plans to prepare the site if it is ultimately selected.
Renard Development Company and city of Greenbelt planning staff came before the city council Monday with an infrastructure detailed site plan (DSP) for the Greenbelt Metro north core, where the Metro facilities are and, leaders hope, the FBI headquarters will soon locate. They requesred the city council approve the plan before the county planning board hearing on April 27, which the council did by a 5-1 vote and with 27 conditions as suggested by city staff. Councilman Rodney Roberts was the dissenting vote.
An infrastructure DSP shows the proposed road network, utilities and general site layout. Only one of the proposed buildings is included on this stage of the plan: a parking garage.
“It’s necessary to build it first on this site to be able to accommodate the current parking,” said Jessica Bellah, a community planner.
In addition, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to redesign the bus bay to accommodate 16 buses – more than the current layout allows – and expand the Kiss & Ride. The existing ramps from the Capital Beltway into the site would remain in place. Dedicated bike lanes will transition into a dedicated cyclotrack, which is for bicycle use only and separates cyclists from vehicle traffic, which will run the entire length of the property and connect to the south core. The curb will be mountable to allow bikes to leave the cyclotrack to enter the Metro station or the proposed retail shops on the site.
The infrastructure DSP also includes a network of hiker/biker trails to the Metro site, and these caused much debate at the council meeting. Bellah said the city just learned the previous week that the environmental studies done for the site did not include all of the trails in the plan, so the county would be unable to approve the plan if it included them.
“What is actually being discussed by the county right now is not flat-out denial of the trails, but considering them as separate items in future detailed site plans,” she said.
Several members of the council said they would be fine with removing the Cherrywood Lane trail from the plan altogether. Councilman Edward Putens said the trail would cut through heavily wooded areas and could be unsafe.
“The biggest thing is public safety. How are we going to have somebody put emergency call stations up there? That was never resolved to my satisfaction at this point in time,” he said. “So I am curious why we’re even still thinking about it.”
Bellah said the trail would be heavily used, which makes it safer, and wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles. However she said the detailed talk of trails is a bit premature at this stage in the development.
“That’s getting a little bit into too much detail for what needs to be associated with the infrastructure DSP from the perspective that, essentially, the county is going to recommend that we remove it from this plan and that if the city, the county or developer would like to revisit the trail that we do so at a future date,” she said.
Councilman Roberts also raised issue with the road along the front of the Metro station that serves to connect the north core (at Cherrywood Lane) with the south core. He said the connector road was the reason for his no vote, because it would “ruin the neighborhood.”
“If you put this road through, down through the Greenbelt Station community, it’s going to be nothing but a relief valve for Route 1. You’re going to have hundreds or maybe thousands of cars a day going through that road. And not only is it not good for the environment, it’s going to be horrible for the community there,” he said. “Unless we can separate the buildings part from the road part, there’s no way I can support this thing.”
Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis disagreed and said having multiple exits and entrances would actually benefit the south core community. She also said the traffic issues Roberts predicted did not occur at other, similar road extensions in the city.
“Those are the same concerns that were made for Hanover Parkway when we put it in. It is the same concerns that were put in for Kenilworth Avenue when it was modernized,” she said. “It’s how you design the road. We put in roundabouts. And Hanover Parkway is not- people don’t go through Hanover Parkway to get from one place to another, because they’ve got to do the roundabout.”
Garth Beall, manager at Renard Development, said the company would nevertheless be open to making the connector road narrower.
“We’ve always advocated a narrower roadway,” he said. “Going north, we don’t think there needs to be three lanes. We’d like to get that reduced if we can. I agree with you.”
A few other concerns brought up were stormwater management and potential issues with drainage leading to flooding in College Park neighborhoods that border the area. Beall said the problem needs further study to identify how best to solve it. Davis also raised the issue of trees on the property.
With the council’s approval, the DSP now goes before the county planning board. Renard has indicated it accepts the conditions Greenbelt staff recommended, and the county is expediting the approvals for the project.
Still, Beall said it could be some time before any construction begins.
“There’s really actually nothing that we can do with this detailed site plan approval except move to the next step,” he said. “I feel half-pregnant.”