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CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Residents advise on Annapolis Road plan

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Prince George's County residents gathered with county officials and planners earlier this month to provide their input on a massive transit-oriented development plan that, if adopted, will transform the areas of Lanham, New Carrollton, Glenn Dale-Seabrook and Port Towns by creating more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods to foster economic growth through mixed-use development.

The Dec. 9 meeting, which 75 people attended at St. Mary's Church in Landover Hills, was a part of a series of stakeholder meetings being held by state and county officials to foster community input on the Central Annapolis Road Sector Plan (CARSP), a transportation planning project targeting the Annapolis Road corridor between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Veterans Parkway.

The vision of CARSP follows a growing trend of municipalities seeking to find ways to blend community, environmental and economic needs by creating mixed-use, environmentally friendly developments using a "multimodal transportation" system as the cornerstone for development, according to organizers.

The Prince George's County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) devised an 18-month project schedule to seek community input, gain stakeholder support and determine budgetary needs before formally presenting an adoption plan to the planning board in July 2010, organizers said.

"Residents are worried about speed, public safety and transportation. I think everybody realizes that they will now be living within walking distance of the Purple Line once it's built," said William Washburn, the department's project manager. "Most of the people here have been involved and want us to move ahead with the planning process for improving the road."

During the December meeting, residents primarily were concerned about pedestrian and traffic safety and prioritizing the community's needs once plans are implemented.

Three-dimensional boards and handouts were used to provide attendees with visual examples of the county's vision for the proposed plan. Details of the proposal include creating a bike trail and improving lighting conditions on Annapolis Road, one of the area's major transportation corridors.

Capital Plaza is the possible site of new and varied retailers, ranging from "big box" stores to smaller neighborhood enterprises and restaurants. A new street within that site is slated to run parallel to Annapolis Road.

"Like any main street corridor in any city in the United States, you need proper lighting so that the individuals driving automobiles can see the pedestrians," said Ron Robinson, a Landover resident. "It is important to have extra lights especially with a street that carries the amount of traffic that Annapolis Road does."

The residents worked in small groups to prioritize community concerns, which included additional traffic signals, pedestrian walkways and upgrades to existing bus lines. According to county officials, residents have been an integral part of this process thus far.

"This community has shown its interest in the future of this road ... this process goes back to the planning study we prepared in 2004," Mr. Washburn said.

"The next step is to make further refinements to the ideas we heard tonight," said Ron Mallis, senior planner at Goody Clancy Inc., a Boston-based architecture, planning and preservation firm that is serving as a consultant on the project. "Based on the information received from the residents, we want to make sure that we have a series of short-term inventions that we can talk intelligently about, so at the next meeting we can talk about sources of funding for the project."

Organizers scheduled the next meeting for 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at St. Mary's Church, 7401 Buchanan St.,Landover Hills,. For more information visit: www.pgplanning.org Planning_Home.htm.

• Odell B. Ruffin is a writer and photographer living in Prince George's County.