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427-acre La Plata project still in ‘embryonic phase’


Staff wrtier

A large business park project could be the next big annexation in La Plata.

The Hot Urban Burb at CSM/La Plata annexation project is under review by the La Plata Town Council and La Plata Planning Commission.

“I can say that [the HUB] is a very ambitious project,” said Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), whose district includes La Plata.

Robinson said while the project still is in an “embryonic phase,” if approved the project would have an effect on the town and the county. He would like to have more information about the project’s effect on roads and the environment, which “would be of great concern to our citizens.”

A supporter of redevelopment, Robinson said he would like to see other areas that already have been built and are not in use be considered for development before more than 400 acres of land, much of which is still forest, becomes developed for the project.

Robinson said he is not opposed to bringing job opportunities to the county, but he wants to make sure of the project’s possible effect before signing off on it and possibly regretting it later.

The county commissioners ultimately will have to sign off on the project due to the annexation request of land still owned by the county, Robinson said. He suggested that the petitioners of the project come before the commissioners, a meeting which Robinson said the La Plata Town Council and the town’s planning commission would be invited to attend.

“We try to work hand-in-hand with our partners in the town so that we’re on the same page,” Robinson said.

The College of Southern Maryland insists on a neutral stance and is not a participant in the project, CSM President Brad Gottfried said. However, Gottfried said the project could have a positive effect on the college. If the HUB enables the college to have a stronger relationship with La Plata, Gottfried said “that would be very positive.”

Jim Whitehead, an engineer for A Total Consulting Service PLC and branch manager for the company’s Waldorf office, said at a recent town planning commission meeting that the college’s name in the project reflects a desire by the designers to connect the college and the town. Gottfried said “that’s a worthy concept.”

“The project is being designed to be as environmentally sensitive or more environmentally sensitive than any project in Charles County, and we expect to have zero impact,” said Whitehead in a phone interview. Whitehead said he expects a positive, not negative environmental effect from the project. The possibility exists, Whitehead said, that the project will produce no more or even less of a pollutant load into Jennings Run and the Port Tobacco River than already exists.

The petition for annexation came before the town council in July from property owners Hawthorne Rosewick Limited Partnership, the primary owner of the property, Rosewick Associates LLC and Helen K. Jennings. The annexation is proposed for 472 acres on the west side of U.S. 301 at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Rosewick Road and north of the Rosewick Crossing Shopping Center on the east side of U.S. 301.

The petitioners have requested the annexation so that they can build a business park of 43 buildings with offices, retail stores and restaurants. The land currently is zoned for residences in the Charles County Comprehensive Plan and the draft update of the plan. The petitioners have requested a rezoning of Planned Business Park & Enterprise District, a zoning the town created several years ago. If approved, the HUB would be the first property in the town to use the zoning designation.

David M. Jenkins, director of planning and community development for the town, said in meeting between the town’s planning commission and town council in November that the annexation “project will have significant impact on the town’s infrastructure,” including public water, public sewer, police protection and trash collection. Town staff do not yet have cost estimates for the project’s effect on the town’s water and sewer system.

Jay John Hellman, president of The Hellman Co. Inc. and managing partner of Hawthorne Rosewick Limited Partnership, and Whitehead said they have been working on the project for 27 years.

Whitehead said he informally has discussed the project with Steve Ball, planning director for the county’s department of planning and growth management. Hellman said he informally has contacted Charles County commissioner’s President Candice Quinn Kelly (D), who wrote a letter of support for the project in early 2011.

“The extension of Rosewick Road to Hawthorne has the potential to help traffic circulation in the town,” Ball wrote in an email. He added that “it is still early in the process,” and a project such as the HUB is “phased to meet future demand.” Additional employment areas in the town would be good, he wrote.

Kelly could not be reached for comment.

Whitehead’s resumé includes multiple-story office buildings in Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va., Fair Oaks Mall off of I-66 in Virginia, and Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., where Whitehead helped in the design of high-rise office buildings, condominium apartments and a shopping center in the early 1980s.

Hellman said he was responsible for the design of Streamview subdivision off of Route 228 in Waldorf in the early 1990s. White Oak Park was created in the subdivision to preserve two large oak trees, and Alyssa Park contains a playground. Hellman said that the project was significant because existing county infrastructure was used. He also designed Lafayette Centre on 20th Street in Washington, D.C., in 1976, a project that contained a mix of building heights just as is suggested for the HUB.

Hellman began thinking of his now patented theory of “virtual adjacency” in the early 1980s and incorporated it into the design of the Sears House at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. in the District in 1982. Hellman said the structure at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. was a registered historic landmark, which he renovated into the District headquarters for Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Hellman said Jennings, who lives in Virginia Beach, owns about 8 acres of the property intended for the HUB that is necessary for Rosewick Road. He said he has attempted to purchase the property from her, but she is not interested in selling.