HYATTSVILLE – The future developers of Hyattsville could have more options when it comes to creating community benefits if the city’s council decides to move forward with a new Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) policy or ordinance.
The topic, introduced by Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, was brought up during the discussion section of the Hyattsville City Council meeting on Oct. 2. She said she wanted to put the option before the council because she believes a CBA ordinance could be a useful tool for the city as it continues to grow and attract businesses and developers.
“The rationale behind it, for me, was twofold. One, to formalize, and in some ways require, participation when projects meet a certain threshold,” she said. “But also to give a little bit of clarity on the types of projects that could be funded through Community Benefit Agreements.”
A CBA is a tool used by cities, counties and states to negotiate how a developer will provide benefits to the community. Specifically, the agreement is a written document that details conditions a developer must meet, or should meet, to gain approval and support from a governmental body.
Benefits provided by developers in such cases typically address a need within the community or any anticipated issues the development could create. Examples of benefits provided signed by developers include public parks, apprenticeship programs, affordable housing, historic preservation of sites or buildings, local hiring quotas and funding for local art and culture.
Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler noted, in a memo to the council written in 2015, that CBAs are a fairly recent tool utilized by cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Seattle.
“The most prominent CBA was signed in 2001 and (is) known as the Los Angeles Staples Center agreement,” he wrote. “The CBA was negotiated by the city of Los Angeles along with three local community organizations and the developer. The CBA terms provided formalized community support for the arena, parking lots, a residential complex and 250,000 square feet of retail space in exchange for a variety of public investments including $1 million for public park improvements, $25,000 per year for five years for a residential parking permit program, and a set percentage of affordable housing within the newly constructed residential development.”
By creating an ordinance or a policy regarding CBAs, Hollingsworth said she hopes to create a clearer list of possible asks and a clearer line of communication of those desires when potential builders want to develop in Hyattsville.
However, Hollingsworth said the new policy would not require potential developers to take part in a CBA, but would leave it as an option if developers met certain criteria. Her proposed threshold for CBAs included multifamily developments with more than 120 units, developments that receive $200,000 or more in public benefits from the city, and projects seeking a density bonus in areas governed by a Prince George’s County Transit District Development Plan.
Councilman Thomas Wright said he was confused about the potential thresholds for the CBAs and if any developer would be forced to be a part of one. Councilman Joseph Solomon wanted to know how the community and stakeholder engagement part of the new legislation would work. He also had questions about the difference between a policy and ordinance in this case.
Hollingsworth said she hopes the city could work as a “convener of sorts” between the community and project developers.
“In my initial thoughts around this, the ordinance would provide a list of eligible entities. So those entities that could be considered partied to an agreement and that the city would act as a convener of sorts,” she said, explaining that a developer could reach out to the stakeholders based on the list and look at possible projects.
The mayor’s proposal also included potential “eligible public improvements” developers could sign on to if they met the CBA thresholds. Those projects include affordable housing units, age friendly units, providing education enrichment grants or any project consistent with the Hyattsville Community Sustainability Plan.
Councilwoman Erica Spell said she would also like to see public schools added to the list of potential public benefits, as well as projects or funds for child and youth development.
Overall, Hollingsworth said the legislation is still in the works and the thresholds or potential projects she listed should not be taken as the only limitations. She said she was open to adding more, saying the lists were not exhaustive.
Several members of the council thanked her brining CBA options before the council for discussion.