After a controversial merchandise logistics center advanced to the next phase for approval, some residents in an Upper Marlboro community plan to take legal action.
As of Sunday, July 28, approximately $3,175 has been raised through a GoFundMe fundraiser platform for legal fees to appeal and challenge the decision made by the Prince George’s County Planning Commission. The monetary goal: $10,000.
The project proposes to construct a five-story, 800,000-square-foot building on 78 acres and bring more than 1,500 jobs. The business would open for 24 hours per day with 150 tractor trailers traveling past two residential neighborhoods that remain under construction: Parkside and Westphalia Town Center.
Residents fear Amazon would be the tenant, based on the online giant residing in other parts of the county on properties owned by the Westphalia applicant, Conshocken, Pennsylvania-based Duke Partnership Limited Corp., which is also registered as Duke Realty in Indianapolis.
“It may be legal, but it is not in the best interest of the community,” said Destini Harris, one of the organizers from the Westphalia community who closed on her Parkside home in November. “These are 30-year investments on paper. We sacrificed a lot to be here.”
The plan now goes to the District Council, a body composed of county council members who review land-use and zoning matters. District Council isn’t scheduled to meet again until Sept. 9.
However, the Planning Commission conditionally approved the plan on July 18. Now a 30-day appeal period is underway, but any appeals must be filed prior to the District Council session.
Harris and other Westphalia residents could receive some help in their legal fight. The Coalition of Central Prince George’s County Community Organizations — a group of neighborhood organizations from municipalities and communities in Districts 5, 6 and 7 that include Landover, Seat Pleasant and Upper Marlboro — offered to provide an attorney and other resources.
The property along Woodyard Road, which connects along one of the county’s longest and busiest highways in Pennsylvania Avenue, resides in the district of Councilman Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro. He didn’t attend the meeting and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the coalition held an emergency meeting Saturday at Peppermill Community Center in Hyattsville to discuss a myriad of community concerns. The Westphalia project was discussed for more than an hour.
It may be a challenge, based on a minor zoning change the county council made this year.
The council amended the mixed-use transportation-oriented zoning district to allow for the business on the property without mailing formal public notices to nearby residences.
A May 7 council Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee report notes “the proposed guidelines will not adversely affect the surrounding residential community.” The council posted the topic on agendas May 14 and June 18.
Residents said a warehouse-type business completely changes the neighborhood’s characteristics, especially when the property owner, Walton Development and Management, says the property would incorporate offices, restaurants, stores and other amenities.
“If we come together, I believe we can prevent this from happening,” said John E. Richardson, president of the coalition.
Jan Hayes of Upper Marlboro said there’s another way to change the future.
“The only thing that matters at the end of the day is your vote,” he said. “You can’t put the onus on council members because they showed their hand. Businesses don’t like noise, guys. Get active.”
Although many residents disapprove of the project, it does have supporters.
“Our organization has … worked continuously to promote the creation of jobs and quality economic development in our county, state and region,” M. H. Jim Esteep, president and CEO of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, wrote in a July 17 letter. “This project certainly has the potential to meet both objectives, since 1,500 jobs new and high-quality jobs are estimated to be created.”