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Melford Village Raises Resident Concerns over 'Greenwashing,' Traffic

Developers emphasized their commitment to building a sustainable, livable community in Bowie.

A rendering the the Melford Village Concept Plan: Credit: St. John's Property
A rendering the the Melford Village Concept Plan: Credit: St. John's Property
Representatives from St. John's Property spent more than an hour Wednesday night detailing the concept plans for Melford Village, waxing poetic about plans for a green development that will be LEED-certified. Plan features touted by the developer include the use of solar energy, building efficiency and community walkability.

Yet, local residents raised questions about issues such as livability, traffic, stormwater management and the true impact on the environment.

Bowie resident Genevieve Liang said her biggest fear is that St. John's is "greenwashing" an apartment complex. 

St. John's has said they will pursue a LEED Neighborhood Design certification, offered by the U.S. Green Building Council, for Melford Village. The certification is based on a rating system. It is intended to integrate "the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design," according to the Green Building Council website. 

"Just because something is LEED ND does not mean it is sustainable or successful," said Liang, who lives in Sherwood Manor, adjacent to the Melford property. 

The Melford Village proposal includes 2,500 residential units; 260,000 square feet of office space; and 100,000 square feet of retail space that will include a small grocery store and service retail. The residential component—which is 3.5 million square feet—includes town homes, apartments, condos and 500 units of designated senior housing.

Liang said she also has concerns about the livability of the proposed development, noting that St. John's had not called for any sound transmission standards in the proposed apartments, or allowed for space for yards or decks for the town homes. 

"I'm willing to put up with a lot as long as it makes the community worth more," Liang said, adding that at this point she was feeling "very hesitant" about the current plans. 

St. John's representatives were optimistic about their plans for the green development, and emphasized their dedication to getting it right even if it costs more for them to do so.

"We're north of $800,000 in consulting fees," said Andrew Roud, a lawyer for St. John's, adding that he'd never put more work into a development.

Other residents raised concerns over the traffic impact of 2,500 new homes, citing the fact that there was only one entrance into Melford and no plans to build another. 

Bowie Councilman Dennis Brady (at-large) echoed these traffic concerns, and added some environmental concerns of his own. 

"I still have concerns over traffic issues, and the position of some of the buildings in relation to wetlands," Brady said. 

The Melford property backs up to many acres of wetlands, though developers were adamant that proposed structures meet distance requirements from the land. 

Brady said he'd also like Bowie's citizen committees, including the Environmental Advisory Committee, to take a look at the plans. 

Martha Ainsworth, who lives in Sherwood Manor and is chair of the Prince George's Sierra Club, also raised some environmental concerns. She suggested that St. John's be held to the stricter, current stormwater management standards, instead of being grandfathered in to lesser, older standards. 

Wednesday's public hearing was just one step along the road to approval for the Melford community. 

The concept plans will be reviewed by the Bowie Advisory Planning Committee and staff, both of which will issue reports to the city council. Then, there will be a public meeting with the Bowie City Council, likely by sometime in March, according to Bowie City Manager David Deutsch. 

A traffic design plan and a tree conservation plan, along with the conceptual site plan and the Melford Village Design Guidelines can be viewed on the city's website. 

More on Melford: 
Alphadog January 16, 2014 at 01:53 PM
Traffic in that area is already very heavy. "Greenwashing " is a good way to put it .. Bowie does not need more shopping. I'm ok with senior housing, but the rest we don't need.
twk January 16, 2014 at 07:22 PM
One way to reduce traffic in and out of the new development is for it to have its own shopping, at least for basics such as groceries. That is the point of mixed use development. Otherwise it is just another car dependent community generating traffic.
SFBMoore January 20, 2014 at 04:48 PM
The fact that there is only one entrance/exit to this area is scary...I would not feel safe living there! Everything has two exits except Melford! They have enough land that they could design a second entrance!

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