The discussion got a bit heated including the residential units proposed for a Riverdale Park property hoping to host the county’s first .
Both Jane Cafritz, and her husband, Calvin, were in attendance and spoke to the council about their dedication to the project.
“I’m here to say thank you,” Cafritz said. “Over the last five years we’ve had a lot of community meetings and I’m appreciative for the feedback from the citizens and I’m very respectful of this community.”
Her husband added, “We’re dedicated to doing this project and doing something excellent that all of us will be proud of.”
Following the Mixed Used Town Center guidelines, developers presented the plan for their four- to six-foot residential apartment units on the eastern end of the complex. They also stated the 100 townhomes would be 3.5-stories high.
They centered the , or the proposed site of the Whole Foods, and said the proposed East Van Buren Street that would run through the site would be the main road – adhering to sidewalk measurements and parking placement based on that and not on Baltimore Avenue.
- Unlike the EYA, which is planned off guidelines similar to MUTC, according to the developers the buildings wouldn’t face Route 1 and would instead face East Van Buren Street.
- A gateway park would be built along Route 1 as a buffer from the surface parking, and other green space including small parks, bio-retention ponds and more would be created on the space as well.
- The proposed 120-room boutique hotel would be place on the southeast corner of the site and a parking garage; built in phase two would be north of Whole Foods.
Riverdale Park Councilman Jonathan Ebbeler said the plans didn’t reflect MUTC guidelines and he didn’t understand the plan for the surface parking at the property’s entrance along Route 1.
“We didn’t necessarily envision a strict adherence to 100 percent of the guidelines, but there’s a significant difference between asking for a variance and significant variance,” Ebbeler said. “It’s no way in compliance with the guidelines.”
Ralph Bennett, a designer with Cafritz, discussed why the developers chose to center the project around East Van Buren Street, rather than along Route 1. Bennett said they hoped to be respectful of University Park residents.
They discussed how their plan meets the MUTC guidelines from site design to building height and noted their attempt to meet the guidelines on a different scale and in their interpretation.
Chip Reed, attorney for the Cafritz’s, responded to the mayor’s letter about how the developers hope to answer and meet requirements set by Riverdale Park’s council.
They discussed that they are open about the Maryland Avenue access point and are working on the eastern access over the CSX crossing.
Mayor Vernon Archer was concerned with the placement of the buildings in and away from Route 1.
“There’s concern that they are too far away from Route 1,” Archer said, “but it remains a concern.”
“It would be brutalizing to the houses across the street,” Bennett responded, noting how Dematha High School and the gates to the University of Maryland are set away from Route 1.
Cafritz added her thoughts on the development’s design as well, noting that the proposed design is friendlier for pedestrians.
“We want to be honest, this is our plan,” she said, adding if Van Buren Street is their active street, they are in compliance.
Ebbeler, who is an MUTC committee member, also didn’t understand why the developers were trying to please the 15 to 17 University Park homes across the street with a buffer, especially because they live along a state highway.
After a back-and-forth between Ebbeler and the developers about how they weren’t in compliance with MUTC and that the site has a “strip mall” feel, the developers said they will continue to work on issues with council.
Resident Dwight Holmes asked if the developers would be willing to connect the complex directly to town so it wouldn’t be isolated, changing the southeastern end of the complex dedicated to the hotel and maybe create the town’s proposed community center and town offices where the industrial buildings currently exist.