Melford Amendment Clears Bowie City Council
The measure gives developers the ability to propose a mix of residential and retail development on the property.
After three-and-a-half hours of citizen comment and council discussion, the resolution supporting an amendment to the covenants on the Melford property passed the Bowie City Council with a vote of 6-0-1 Monday night, paving the way for resdidential and retail deveopment on the site.
Councilman Dennis Brady (At Large) was the lone council member not to support the change to the covenants. He requested that his vote be recorded as “present."
The passing of the resolution means that St. John’s Property, the owners of the Melford property, have been green-lighted to propose a mixed-use development to the city council. The amendment also increases the city's zoning authority over the property.
Dozens of Bowie residents attended Monday night’s public forum to discuss the covenants to share their enthusiasm, their reservations, and their concerns.
Michael Ahern spoke on behalf of the city’s Economic Development committee in support of the amendment.
“Currently, obviously the vacancy rate in the Melford development is much higher than in the city or in the county, suggesting that it’s not viable in its current configuration,” Ahern said. “To leave the development as it stands is just asking for failure.”
Residential housing, said Ahern, will bring more traffic into the development and increase Melford’s appeal to businesses. He also cited Bowie’s aging population, expected to double in the next ten years. The senior housing, he said, is a way to help Bowie’s older residents stay in the city.
Jon Grantham, who works in the Melford office park, moved to Bowie so he could be closer to work and appreciates the idea of people wanting to be close to their jobs. Grantham said he sometimes bikes the four miles to work at Melford and that currently, the property is not very pedestrian or bike friendly.
“When you get to the end of Belair Drive and you enter Melford Drive it becomes, and there’s no better word for it, scary,” Grantham said, citing a lack of side paths and sidewalks.
The development, said Grantham, is currently so automobile focused, he’s concerned it could never be pedestrian friendly. He suggested the city make connecting bike paths and trails connecting Melford to the rest of Bowie mandatory in the development to increase connectivity and pedestrian safety. The connections Grantham mentioned are suggested in the city’s Trails Master Plan, adopted in 2002.
Another concern raised by multiple residents was the new influx of residents, which could increase the population of Bowie as much as 12 percent based on some formulas.
Will Stein used to work in the 911 call center in Melford, now owns Belair Realty in Bowie and also works as a Prince George's County fire fighter. While he is not necessarily opposed to mixed use at Melford, he is concerned that a population increase could lead to an increase in crime.
“The fact is that the stabbings and shootings, I’m the one that goes out. It’s my hands that stop the bleeding, that's my job,” Stein said. “If we have an influx of housing we might take in a lot of crime and other things we don’t want.”
While it is true that the population in Bowie may increase by up to 12 percent, City Manager David Deutsch said this population increase would happen over a period of ten to 12 years. St. John’s said they do not anticipate having a full proposal ready for two to three years, and that a complete build out of the development would likely take ten or more years.