Despite concern from residents about potential traffic hazards, the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce affirmed its support for the proposed Amber Ridge residential and retail center rezoning request at its annual meeting.
The developer, McLean-based The Rappaport Companies, originally intended to build a 200,000-square-foot commercial shopping center on the vacant land near the intersection of Pointer Ridge Drive and Crain Highway. According to the rezoning request, the Amber Ridge property would instead be developed as a mixed-use, transportation oriented center with 320 housing units, a pharmacy and a bank. Residents are worried it will be dangerous to exit onto Crain Highway from the property.
Kelly Pierce, executive director of the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce, said the GBCC supports the Amber Ridge rezoning because the project would bring more business to the area.
“The board made the decision to support it because the property has been dormant for many, many, many years,” said Pierce. “It’s better to have property that is developed than property that is sitting vacant. It’s better for the tax base of the community at large.”
Craig Muckle, the incoming president of the GBCC, said the board of directors submitted a letter of support to the Prince George’s County zoning hearing examiner. However, the examiner determined the board of directors could not speak on behalf of the GBCC membership and members should vote to approve the GBCC’s position, Muckle said. The earliest opportunity was at the annual meeting, Pierce said.
During the discussion before the vote, Bowie councilwoman Diane Polangin (Dist. 2) said there would be less traffic if the area were developed as a mixed-use property, rather than a commercial center.
“If a 250,000-square-foot shopping center were built there, imagine the traffic that would be there,” Polangin said, adding that the Amber Ridge rezoning “really is a better use of the property, and it would be less intrusive.”
The GBCC members who were present affirmed their support with a unanimous vote. Pierce said she would resubmit the letter to the zoning hearing examiner to indicate the approval of the membership. The examiner’s decision will be sent to the County Council, which will convene as the District Council to make a final decision on the rezoning request.
Also during the meeting, County councilwoman Ingrid M. Turner (D-Dist. 4) of Bowie presented a check for $25,000 to Pierce and Muckle to support the Youth Leadership Bowie program. The program, which started in 1998, is a collaboration between the GBCC and the city to introduce high school students to career opportunities in Bowie businesses and government.
“We look forward to putting those funds toward revamping [the program],” Muckle said