City of Hyattsville. (Courtesy Photo)

HYATTSVILLE — The City of Hyattsville filed a petition for judicial review of a final decision made by the Prince George’s County Council sitting as the District Council to rezone and allow a developer to build homes on property in the city on Oct. 9.

The property in question is located at the intersection of Hamilton Street and 40th Avenue. It is within walking distance of the city’s town hall, borders Magruder Park and is part of the county’s 2004 Gateway Arts District Sector Plan and Section Map Amendment.

Additionally, the land also contains a vacant building that used to be the headquarters for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) which was demolished in late August.

The developer, Werrlein properties, requested from the district council to approve a conceptual site plan for Magruder Pointe that would rezone the property from the One-Family Detached Residential and Open Space Zones to become a Mixed-Use–Infill Zone to allow for a future single-family residential development.

The application has a long history as it was originally filed in 2018 and was approved by the Prince George’s County Planning Board on July 26, 2018, but an appeal was filed later that year in September.

After holding an oral argument hearing, the district council remanded it back to the planning board for further analysis. The planning board voted 2-2 on the application, with one member absent, in March 2019, and it was approved unanimously by the district council in June.

The case is now pending litigation following the City of Hyattsville’s petition for judicial review in the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

The City of Hyattsville is against the development because it would inhibit plans that the city has for the area.

“The decision to rezone the lower lot would eliminate the opportunity to incorporate the open space into the city’s park space,” said Hyattsville City Administrator Tracey Douglas. “The city will be adding an estimated 5,000 new residents in the next decade, and we must continue to provide high-quality parks and recreational green space to support our growing population.”

Another issue the city had with the decision was the land’s previous designation in the 2004 Gateway Arts District Sector Plan and Section Map Amendment, which had recommended that part of the land be used for parks and open space and the other half of it be used for single-family development.

It was designated as a Traditional Residential Neighborhood (TRN) as part of the Gateway Arts District which aims to “preserve the single-family residential neighborhood character as the anchor of the Arts District while supporting artists who produce and teach from their homes,” according to the planning board documents.

“In general, the rezoning of the lower lot is inconsistent with the goals of the 2004 Approved Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment for the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District,” Douglas said.

According to Douglas, the city has received both positive and negative feedback from residents on the Magruder Pointe project.

The city alleged in their petition for judicial review that the district council made “substantial judicial errors” when making the decision to approve the development.

When the decision was in front of the planning board, the application was met with a 2-2 vote, the petition said. The district council, in error, interpreted it as a no recommendation and “did not review the planning board’s decision under lawful standard of appellate review” before they approved the application.

“These fundamental errors produced precisely the results that the state and the county code are designed to prevent: piecemeal Euclidean rezoning at the request of a developer, based on no more than the district council’s endorsement of a developer’s site plan, although the rezoning is contrary to long-term legislated planning of the area,” the city said in their petition.

In their petition, the city went on to add that the district council’s final decision must be reversed “because it is the product of the manifestly unlawful process by that local agency.”

The city’s petition for judicial review was accepted by the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Douglas said. At this point, both parties will complete and file their written arguments. The court will likely hold a hearing and eventually, issue a decision, but a date has not yet been determined.

Members of the district council were not available for comments before print deadline.

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