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February 03, 2004 Minutes

Prince George’s County Delegation

Bi-County Committee Meeting

February 3, 2004

8:30 a.m.

LHOB 202





Committee Attendees: Del. Niemann, Chair; Del. Kelley, Vice-Chair; Del. Brown, Del. Gaines, Del. Holmes, Del. Menes, Del. Ross and Del. Vaughn

Other: WMATA - Mr. Denton Kent and Mr. Gene Counihan

            MDOT – Ms. Marsha Keiser, Mr. Andy Scott


Del. Niemann opened the meeting at 8:37 a.m.


Del. Niemann stated that before the Committee considered the bills at hand there was to be an update on development issues from the representatives of WMATA and MDOT.  He then introduced Mr. Gene Counihan from WMTA.


Mr. Counihan said today’s briefing was a result of a hearing and a demonstration from the Delegates’ interest in working together. Mr. Kent and he had met with Delegates Niemann and Menes to go over the existing program. There was a lot of official interest in development at County and State levels, and a similar briefing for the Prince George’s County Council will happen in two weeks.


Mr. Counihan introduced Mr. Kent to give the overview. Mr. Kent said the mission of the briefing was to give an understanding of the program and the interest for it was in part the result of a protest by one of the developers.


Mr. Kent then referred the Committee to the printed slide presentation before them.

Slide 5 – Four Joint Development Goals – Del. Brown asked what WMATA strategy was to increase rider ship. Mr. Kent replied that it was planned to accomplish this via conversion of land to housing, retail, commercial structures.

Del. Brown responded that the last thing Prince George’s County needed was residential development near the stations. He was more interested in people getting on trains to come to Prince George’s County to spend money.


Mr. Kent continued, stating they were required to get the fair market value on projects. WMATA has no land use entitlement powers. WMATA cannot force residential or commercial development. They need the input of local governments to accomplish successful development, as well as appropriate zoning.


Del. Brown presented the example of MXP zoning, and suggested that proposals emphasizing commercial and retail development should be given priority over those developments focusing on residential.


Slide 9 – Questions were asked of the status of the 12 projects in Maryland, two of which are in Prince George’s County. Greenbelt is under contract and involved in litigation but there is movement in accomplishing the transit portion of the project. Prince George’s Plaza has received planning approval.

Delegate Niemann asked about the prioritization of the other stations. Mr. Kent replied that of there are two ratings, 1 and 3. New Carrollton, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park, Greenbelt and West Hyattsville are all rated at 1. Addison/Seat Pleasant, Cheverly, Landover, Southern Avenue and Suitland are rated at 3. Del. Niemann asked if 3 meant the projects were not yet marketable. Mr. Kent replied yes, it meant that these projects were not yet marketable to the private market.


Slide 13 – Mr. Kent said the key to WMATA’s goal was to influence both private and publicly owned property. Del. Niemann asked if the West Hyattsville project was all public-owned. Mr. Kent replied that both WMATA and private parties were involved. Del. Niemann asked about the role of the State in the project. Mr. Kent replied the State hired consultants for getting the project organized and were actually involved.

Mr. Scott, from MDOT, added the role of the State was to influence WMATA, but had no control over WMATA. He also indicated that joint development was a priority of the administration and the frustration over the past year was due to a number of zoning and planning issues.


Marsha Keiser, from MDOT, said WMTA looked at sites as a development opportunity and the State viewed it as a community development opportunity. She said in the partnership all must benefit. She went onto say that West Hyattsville was initially rated as a 3 until Councilman Shapiro asked MDOT to get involved. A private consultant helped identify the market potential and that generated enough interest to make West Hyattsville a 1.


She also said they had met with Park and Planning to work on moving New Carrollton and West Hyattsville ahead by the end of the calendar year. MDOT is providing consultants and other experts to get Prince George’s County up on par with other jurisdictions.


Del. Niemann asked if the disparate roles were a problem. Ms. Keiser replied that the potential was there but there was no problem at this point. She went on to agree with Del. Brown, saying that it made sense to put a priority on commercial development.


Del. Niemann asked about parking garages (slide 14). Mr. Kent said parking structures were an Achilles heel for projects due to the front end costs to the developers. He mentioned an Urban Land Institute study called Barriers and Incentives to Transit-Oriented Development. Del. Niemann requested copies of this report to be sent to the Delegation.


Del. Holmes asked if MXT would be more beneficial than a purely commercial approach, by providing more ridership over each day and reduce the need for parking structures thereby increasing the potential for developers to come in. Mr. Kent replied that ridership was highest from office spaces, followed by retail and residential, respectively. MXT requires at least 2 uses. In order to balance peak/non-peak loads there needs to be mixed use. He said that varied within the station sites.


Del. Niemann asked Mr. Kent to give examples of proposals that would be considered.


Mr. Kent gave College Park as an example, saying the first proposal devoted ½ the land to luxury town homes with a small retail presence. The second combined 2 office buildings of 350,000 – 400,000 square feet with a small number of residential units. He said the value on this proposal was less than the first proposal. The third proposal was a mix of basic and luxury residential with some retail. The fourth was residential with 40,000 square feet of retail space.


Del. Niemann reiterated Del. Brown’s point as to the importance of office/retail space mixing.


Mr. Kent said it was important to have a clearly defined plan offsetting unfavorable risks, and to have a pledge of funds from government in the form of loans and grants and to receive income from a parking tax surcharge. He said .75 of the surcharge goes to the capital fund and that Prince George’s County can level an additional surcharge of .50. This, plus support bonds offered by MDOT would offset the cost to the developer.


Del. Niemann asked about West Hyattsville. Mr. Kent said the site offers a positive return, but it remains minimal.


Mr. Kent went on to say that bonds for a garage for the Prince George’s Plaza garage should be issued in March with the hope for a January issuance date. There is an 18-month timeframe to get the garage up.

He also said they would capitalize on the public/private process for a larger return with support from the County Executive.


Mr. Counihan asked if the Delegation would want an update and Del. Niemann replied yes.


Mr. Kent said the evaluation sessions were scheduled for next week.


Del. Niemann asked who was on the evaluation board. Mr. Kent replied representatives from the State, County and from WMATA. Del. Niemann asked about community input. Mr. Kent said they were required to make community contact and keep records of where and what was done, and to address concerns.


Bills - 

105-04 – Naming Rights – Withdrawn by the County and bill received Unfavorable vote.

109-04 – WSSC – Plumbing and Gas Fittings Fines – Withdrawn by WSSC and bill received Unfavorable vote.

114-04 – WMATA – Conveyance of Real Property to State - Bill received Unfavorable vote

116-04 WMATA – Facilities – State Approval - Bill received Unfavorable vote

117-04 – Storage of handguns – bill was special ordered to the next meeting.

119- 04 – MGC & PGC Boundary, proposed change – too late to deal with as a public hearing would have to be held.