By William J. Ford
Now that the Prince George’s County Planning Commission has approved a 78-acre merchandise logistics center in Upper Marlboro, the project heads for a nod from the District Council.
While planners William Doerner and A. Shuanise Washington were absent from last week’s session commission chairwoman Elizbeth Hewlett, Dorothy Bailey and Manuel Geraldo – approved the project with conditions that include a more aesthetic-appealing wall, street improvements, and shuttle bus service provision for workers if no agreement can be reached with Metro.
However, the council won’t review it for at least 30 days to allow for any appeals.
What’s even more frustration for residents such as Leathey Chandler, is that Amazon’s second headquarters will be built in nearby Arlington County, Va., with 25,000 jobs and several financial benefits.
“We’re still not done fighting this thing,” said Chandler, who moved into a single-family and townhouse neighborhood in March, about two miles away from the huge tract in Upper Marlboro. “We plan to go all the way with this. We don’t want Amazon in our neighborhood.”
Residents are weary the project labeled “Westphalia Center,” and nicknamed “Snapper,” would embrace Amazon.
The applicant, Duke Partnership Limited Corp. of Conshohocken, Penn., also registered as Duke Realty headquartered in Indianapolis, has Amazon as its major tenants in properties nationwide.
The project proposes to create at least 1,500 jobs with an estimated starting salary of $15 an hour.
Employees and visitors would walk inside a five-story, 800,000 square foot building slated to operate 24 hours, seven days a week. At least 100 tractor trailers would make daily trips to the property.
Tom Haller, an attorney who represents Duke Realty, said arterial roads such as Presidential Park and portions of Woodyard Road would be refurbished to improve traffic flow for trucks, employees and residents in nearby Westphalia Town Center and Parkside residential development. The roads connect off Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the busiest and longest highways in the county.
He said Melwood Road, currently labeled a “dead end” street at Woodyard Road, would be constructed as a four-lane road heading north toward the warehouse property.
“If we’re fortunate to get approved, the plan would be to start construction by this fall,” Haller said. “It’s going to take until the middle of 2021 for it to be constructed because of the size of the facility, which is what gives us the time to complete the road improvements,” he continued. “This is something that cannot be built in a couple of months.”
John Erzen, spokesman for County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, said officials scheduled a meeting this week with the developer to make sure the project remains viable and residents’ concerns are addressed.
The county council amended the mixed-use-transportation oriented zoning district this year to allow for a merchandise logistics center.
According to the ordinance, a merchandise logistics center would be a business “where goods or products are received and may be sorted, packed and stored for the purpose of distribution to parcel carriers or delivery directly to a consumer…”
Three local groups that include the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, and the county branch of the NAACP, wrote letters in support of the project.
“The ability to retain and attract businesses to the county is imperative to generating the tax revenue required to provide for the education, public safety and other services our residents demand and deserve,” David Harrington, president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce, wrote in the letter. “Without a growing employment and commercial tax base, the burden of funding essential services will fall increasingly on our residential tax base. That is not a sustainable model.”
At least 50 residents who emailed and signed up to speak at a July 18 planning meeting, said Walton Development and Management, which owns the property, originally planned to not only build residences, but also restaurants and other commercial businesses.
Several residents also expressed concern that the logistics center would bring truck traffic, create noise and pollution without a natural buffer along the residences.
That may cause Judith Ward of Largo to not purchase a home in the Westphalia development.
“If this distribution center is approved, it will discourage me from doing so,” Ward said in an email July 17. I do believe it will also discourage other Maryland residents from moving into the county as well.”
This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.