- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Port Towns leaders have a new legislative agenda for 2012 — attracting new businesses, improve street infrastructure and bringing more transportation options to the area.
Officials from the four communities — Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston — met with stakeholders and legislators Jan. 5 to share their goals and requests at their annual legislative dinner at Colmar Manor’s community center.
Several leaders called for a feasibility study of a MARC trail stop in Cottage City as the area is not served by any rail-based transit system. Currently, the closest MARC station is in Riverdale Park, which is about 2.5 miles away.
“A new stop could provide long term economic development and would eliminate parking constraints and decrease congestion,” said Cottage City Commissioner Patricia Gross (Ward 3). “It would provide an anchor that would boost our revitalization efforts.”
Others touted the importance of Bladensburg’s Green Street project, which intends to make Annapolis Road — the town’s major road — safer for pedestrians and more environmentally-friendly with surfaces that collect rainfall and energy efficient lighting.
“[The Green Street Project] would change the look of our main corridor but also focus on storm water management, which helps clean up our river. It will make it more pedestrian friendly for our residents as they travel across the community,” said Bladensburg Mayor Walter James, who added the major obstacle was securing project funding.
In 2010, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) allocated $4 million towards the design study of this project. Port Towns officials are now looking for continued support of an estimated $20 million to complete the project.
County and state legislators such as state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly and state Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier attended the dinner to receive the Port Towns’ requests and priorities.
Niemann cautioned Port Towns officials that Prince George’s County is facing a $135 million deficit and the state is looking at $1 billion in budget cuts and money may not be readily available to support their priorities.
Ramirez said priorities like the Green Street Project will take a substantial amount of funding, which may have to come from tax increases in areas such as using plastic bags and gasoline.
“It’s true that these are tough times economically,” he said. “The money is not going to fall out of the sky, it’s going to fall out of our pockets, but hopefully it’s going to come back to us. We’re going to try our best.”
Ruthie Mundell, the community outreach and education director of Edmonston’s Community Forklift, a salvage and surplus building material thrift store, spoke on the establishment of a “Sustainable Green District,” another primary goal for the area. The green district would provide state income tax credits and property tax credits to environmentally-friendly businesses specializing in sustainable products that relocate to the Port Towns.
Other area leaders presented plans to commemorate the War of 1812 as another method for boosting economic development.
Aaron Marcavitch, the executive director for Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, which is coordinating upcoming War of 1812 commemorative events and programs, spoke of increased funding for such projects to boost tourism and economic development. He said the state approved $125,000 from a $500,000 bond bill request, which will go toward a roughly $310,000 bronze monument in Balloon Park in Bladensburg. He said ATHA has estimated a more than $1 million budget for all War of 1812 projects and is looking for any amount of financial support.
Bladensburg Councilwoman Trina Brown (Ward I) said with the projected 1.5 million visitors coming to the area this year for the War of 1812, infrastructure improvements are important.
“We need to improve the walkability here and show that we are a community that is forward thinking,” she said.