My Two Cents: Blumberg Company’s re-zoning request

December 6, 2015

The preliminary Prince George's Plaza Transit District Development Plan illustrates the Clay Property with approximately 28 single family detached houses in the R-80 Zone, which can accommodate up to 58. Developers hope to get the property rezoned to accommodate up to 210 townhouses.
BY RON PEDONE AND ELIZABETH PAYER —

BY RON PEDONE AND ELIZABETH PAYER —

The Marvin R. Blumberg Co. is asking the City of Hyattsville to support its request to change the zoning designation of the Clay property, the land the Company owns in the University Hills area from R-80 to R-20, a much higher density designation.

Let’s be honest about why the Blumberg Co. is seeking this change. With a simple designation change, the Blumberg Co. would potentially reap larger amounts of  money by building and selling as many as 210 units (R-20) on the 12.87 acres. The current zoning only allows approximately 58 detached units (R-80).

Let’s also be equally honest about why Prince George’s County and the City of Hyattsville might want to support such a zoning designation change. Both entities see the color green — more tax dollars to be collected by the county and the city if they go along with the Blumberg Co. request.  Despite all the rhetoric and posturing, it’s really not about maintaining the quality of life for the residents of University Hills; it’s not about preserving precious green space and woods; and it’s certainly not about what’s best for the environment.

In a word, it is about money.

It’s highly likely the developer would make much more money selling more units in a higher density location. And, yes, the city would take in more revenue if it decides to support the Blumberg Co.’s request. We would hope, though, that Hyattsville is not simply driven by a desire for a few more tax dollars. We want to believe the city wouldn’t surrender to a developer’s ambitions for “profit maximization.”

Of course, the Blumberg Co. has the right to make as much money as it can by developing this acreage. It’s in business to make a profit, a huge profit, if it can. But, should the city also be in the business of selling out the preferences of its residents simply for additional tax dollars?  What a sad state of affairs it would be if the City of Hyattsville chooses to go along with such a course of action. We’d like to believe the city would reject such a choice.

After long deliberations, multiple discussions with area residents, and thoughtful planning, the Park and Planning Commission, in its September 2015 preliminary plan, recommended that the Clay property remain designated as R-80 and not changed to a R-20 designation. Park and Planning came to this decision because it recognized that an R-80 designation is consistent with the character and feel of adjacent University Hills — single family detached homes on large lots, many of them wooded.

It is our belief that there will be no lack of opportunity to buy a townhouse in the Prince George’s Plaza Transit District Overlay Zone (TDOZ) area.  As currently envisioned, the TDOZ includes planning for mixed-use and townhouse development. Indeed, plans for townhouse development are inundating the area. The only current designation exception is the 12-plus acres located within the University Hills community. What is so troubling or damaging about preserving the option for prospective homeowners to buy a new, single-family house within the TDOZ? New single family homeowners would pay substantial taxes, after all.

We think it’s vital to preserve residential, single family housing as an alternative in our community, as well as throughout Hyattsville. We believe that zoning modifications to accommodate the building of townhouses ignore this important option. We further maintain that density proportionality should be the standard. And, we are convinced that the avalanche of townhouse units not only violates this proportionality but will also radically and severely change the character, appeal, and quality of life for those who live in University Hills. For many residents, it is a simple and straightforward matter: keep the integrity of the entire University Hills community intact. Let it remain zoned as R-80, a community traditionally known as “single family detached homes.”  Sometimes the best “change” is no change.

Ronald Pedone and Elizabeth Payer are the President and Vice-President of the University Hills Area Civic Association (UHACA).  The views expressed are theirs and do not necessarily reflect the views of UHACA.