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City Council to Vote on Melford Amendment Monday

The public will have a chance to give comment prior to the vote.

On Monday, the city of Bowie will face a major policy decision: whether to amend covenants on the Melford property—paving the way for hundreds of new housing and commercial units—or to leave the covenants as they stand.

 

The History 

The Melford development has a nearly 30-year history in Bowie, beginning when the city annexed the property, then known as the University of Maryland Science and Technology Center, in 1985. This annexation put the city into a unique position, giving them zoning authority over the parcel of land.   

Amending the covenants will not take away any of Bowie’s control over the uses of the land, according to Mayor G. Frederick Robinson. 

“What I expect to happen is we will have a motion on the table to amend the covenants to allow the city to approve retail and residential on the site under very limited conditions and under absolute control of the city,” Robinson said. 

The property’s original developers planned to eventually improve the property’s zoning to mixed-use, according to Bowie City Manager David Deutsch, but that didn't happen before the lot was sold to the current owners, St. John Properties, in 2001. 

In 2006, the Prince George’s County Planning Department approved the Bowie and Vicinity Master Plan, which recommended residential development at Melford.

 

The Present 

So, while the intent of the developer, the county, and even the city has long been to allow residential development at Melford, it was not until St. John Properties’ most recent plans that the city council considered amending the covenants. 

“They believe they can present a project that will meet the city’s needs, their needs and hopefully is something we can come together on,” Robinson said.

St. John approached the city council in September, requesting the covenant amendment. The council voted to allowed city staff to enter into discussions with the developer about the future of the property. 

On Jan. 7, St. John Properties revealed their plans for a mixed-use development at Melford that would include 2,500 units of housing, a 15,000 square foot grocery store and a variety of service retail to serve the residents.

 The proposal presented to the city council, called Melford Village, included:

  • Approximately 450 units of dedicated senior housing
  • Small scale service retail that could include restaurants, dry cleaners and a community bank
  • Townhomes, possibly with retail shops on the first level
  • An “office village” that would provide a visual transition between the current residential park and the residential component
  • Apartment villas, that would be a transition between podium apartments and townhomes
  • High density “wrap” apartment buildings that will have 300-350 units each
  • A community building
  • A 15,000 square foot grocery store
  • A village square with clock town designed to be a place where people congregate
  • Walking trails throughout

 

The Future

Robinson thinks the project has real potential, particularly to fill what he sees as a void in housing for the city’s seniors. As of the 2010 census, nearly 42 percent of the city’s population was age 45 or older. 

“Right now we are losing a lot of our seniors that are moving to Waugh Chapel and Annapolis,” Robinson said. “To me those are the people who made Bowie and I would like to give them the option to stay here.” 

Even if the council does vote in support of the covenant, it will likely be months or years before the Melford property sees any development, said Deutsch, and the developers say the city council will still have final say over any plans before they are submitted to the planning board. 

The city of Bowie will have a heavy hand in any development should the covenants be amended, said Robinson. 

“The city will have an end veto over anything proposed,” he said.

St. John’s Properties has said they are amenable to the city’s active participation.  

Marie Elaine Snow February 28, 2013 at 10:26 PM
I would like to know what will happen to the property known as Melford Mansion which is a historical site, and has been protected by the historical society up until this point. I heard know mention of this, and am wondering if changing the covenants will allow for Melford to be destroyed. I would totally be against this!!! This site should have been renovated like many of the old mansions in PG Cty to be able to be used as a wedding venue, and other wonderful events. I myself would have loved to have done this but did not have the money to do the renovations. We sorely lack in this area a place for wonderful events, and it would be an ideal location bringing in revenue for the County. Elaine Snow
Jenni Pompi (Editor) February 28, 2013 at 10:55 PM
There are no plans to destroy the mansion. I believe the mansion has been renovated (at least to some degree), and while the developers have not discussed a specific use, they do think it is a highlight of the property.
michael mcardle February 28, 2013 at 11:22 PM
This is a total and complete capitulation by a mayor and city council who lack the acumen and the political savvy of past mayors and councils. To permit 2.500 residential units - over THREE TIMES the current 800 plus - while calling it necessary for "senior housing" is, well, an abdication of the oaths of office each of these council members made when sworn into office. Bowie as we know it is about to change, permanently, into Rt. 1 in Laurel, or Rt. 301 in Waldorf.
Deborah Rice March 02, 2013 at 04:30 PM
I agree - notice the push in putting it before vote on Monday to keep the public away!
Deborah Rice March 02, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I am very disturbed to learn that our City Council is even considering changing the covenants at Melford. Bowie does not need more housing, commuters or congestion, we need more professional businesses. There already is an apartment complex being developed at the Bowie Town Center! We do not need another housing development. This decision by the Council will force our hands in determining whether we sell our home and business here. Please say NO to residential development at Melford!
Barbara DeShong March 03, 2013 at 02:57 PM
"They believe they can present a project that will meet the city’s needs, their needs and hopefully is something we can come together on,” Robinson said. Mr Robinson, in which city do you live? According to the plan, Bowie needs three 5-story hotels? Why? Is it because the nearby Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn and Towne Place usually have no vacancy? I don't think so. Are we trying to build retail to regain the businesses the city lost to Waugh Chapel? If so, how is new retail space going to draw these businesses when the Bowie Town Center can not keep them? What is the council doing to recover/reuse the vacant retail space in the area? (i.e. the old Safeway on Annapolis Rd). If we really need a new 15,000 sq ft grocery store, wouldn't it be in the city's best interest to persuade that grocer to use the old Safeway? A Trader Joe's would be wonderful in that location. I think the city council totally 'misses the boat' on this one. The city needs to revitalize our retail areas, not abandon them and replace with new retail areas. The city needs to strengthen and expand resources for seniors, not move them to a new location (albeit, less than 20% of this new development is for seniors). The city needs to develop stronger programs for our youth, not add additional children to a severely overcrowded school system. Running out of space for my comments - but you do get the gist Mr. Robinson and city council members, don't you? We don't need more, we need to fix what we have!
Deborah Rice March 03, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Thank you for taking the time to address some issues that I missed bringing up, Barbara. Your comments are right on target!

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