Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Gospel Singer Byron Cage Joins Rally Against Rezoning Proposal Near 55-and-Older Community

Before award-winning gospel artist Byron Cage sang his hit song “Presence of the Lord Is Here,” he offered support for the residents at Cameron Grove in Upper Marlboro.

“I’ve come to fight along with you. I’ve come to stand in the trenches with you because if my momma’s here, that means all of you will get my [support],” he said Wednesday at the 55-and-older residential complex comprised of 733 single-family homes and condominiums.

Cage’s mother resides in the neighborhood along Central Avenue (Route 214) near Six Flags America, which could either expand its property or add future businesses.

The Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission proposes to rezone the land from residential suburban to commercial. The tract currently population by trees rests about a mile east at Central Avenue and Church Road in Bowie.

Cameron Grove, a 55-and-older residential community in Upper Marlboro, holds a rally Oct. 13 opposing a rezoning plan at Six Flags America with the potential to bring additional businesses a mile away. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Cameron Grove, a 55-and-older residential community in Upper Marlboro, holds a rally Oct. 13 opposing a rezoning plan at Six Flags America with the potential to bring additional businesses a mile away. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

The commission and Prince George’s County Council members, who sat as District Council to review zoning and land use matters, held a public hearing earlier this month on a document labeled “Bowie-Mitchellville and Vicinity Master Plan.”

It focuses on 59 square miles in five areas along several state roads: Bowie State University, Old Town Bowie, Bowie Town Center, Free State Shopping Center and Collington Local Employment Area.

Although Six Flags represents a small portion of the plan, Cameron Grove residents said rezoning the land is unnecessary, especially with two shopping centers less than a half-mile away heading west along Central Avenue.

Cameron Grove residents Phillippa Johnston, Cleveland Grant and others wore red t-shirts with a message for the planning commission and Prince George’s County officials: “Say no more development on 214.”

Besides Cage, other county residents such as Christine Hough of the Marwood senior complex in Upper Marlboro, incurred and face a similar rezoning proposal near her development.

“We have fought this battle before,” she said. “Additional commercial development is not desired in our community.”

Two doctors, Gayle Porter and Marilyn Hughes Gaston, visited Cameron Grove to talk about the health effects additional businesses can have mentally and physically.

Gayle Porter (left) and Marilyn Hughes Gaston speak about the health effects that additional businesses built nearby could have on Cameron Grove residents during an Oct. 13 rally opposing a rezoning proposal on land at Six Flags America, about one mile away from Cameron Grove, a 55-and-older residential community in Upper Marlboro. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Gayle Porter (left) and Marilyn Hughes Gaston speak about the health effects that additional businesses built nearby could have on Cameron Grove residents during an Oct. 13 rally opposing a rezoning proposal on land at Six Flags America, about one mile away from Cameron Grove, a 55-and-older residential community in Upper Marlboro. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Hughes Gaston, a physician and former director in the bureau of public health in the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said commercial development increases traffic, smog, cuts trees and causes other environmental problems.

“With all these cars omitting ozone … [and] they’re noisy,” she said. “What do you think is going to happen to your ability to sleep at night? That also is a problem. You have a reason to fight this to the hilt.”

Porter, a clinical psychologist, said stressful situations outside the home can negatively affect a person’s mental health such as battling developers and some politicians who seek monetary value over public health.

She also mentioned the fights and vandalism that occurred at Six Flags last month.

“It didn’t happen here at Cameron Grove, but I know it had an impact on you,” she said. “I live in Potomac [Montgomery County] and it affected me. When we look at how the fear and the anxiety of what’s going to happen across the street [and] starts to translate into our lives, it becomes an issue for all of us to fight about.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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