College Park business owners, residents oppose possible road expansion -- Gazette.Net


This article was corrected on Aug. 19, 2014. An explanation follows the story.

Despite repeated pleas from residents and business owners who worry that a possible expansion of Hollywood Road would disturb their quality of life and livelihoods, College Park officials may go ahead with a feasibility study on the project after all.

“People just don’t understand, when you have a nice little neighborhood...someone is always trying to come in and destroy it, take the land,” said Sue Johnson, 66, of College Park during an Aug. 12 City Council meeting attended by about 45 residents and business owners.

Johnson asked council members to remember the promises they made when they took office, saying that the wishes of residents “should be put first, before contractors.”

Many of the business owners who attended the meeting are affiliated with one of the five business that rent space in the yellow building at 9600 Baltimore Avenue and worry that a possible expansion of Hollywood Road, which runs perpendicular, would remove part of the building and parking lot.

For now, the City Council, which is split 4-4 on the issue, voted to develop “a scope of work” for a feasibility study. The decision was reached via a tiebreaker vote by Mayor Andrew Fellows, who also broke an earlier tied vote by opposing a motion that would have relieved the city of an obligation to conduct the feasibility study.

The proposed expansion project is tied to a $500,000 commitment made in 2004 by New York-based developer Starr Insurance Holdings, Inc., which owns Mazza GrandMark Apartments adjacent to Hollywood Road. In a February letter to the city, company representatives said they wanted to move forward with a feasibility study, but asked the city to return the $500,000 escrow sum in the event the study is not completed.

Several council members said during the meeting that a feasibility study is only a means of gathering more information in light of ongoing efforts to revitalize U.S. Route 1 and ease traffic congestion.

But residents and business owners, who have been meeting with officials for weeks to discuss their opposition to the study, said the mere idea of the project worries them.

“The extension of this road could certainly have a domino effect,” Mary Cook, 58, of College Park said by phone earlier in August.

In addition to impacting the businesses in the building and longtime building owner Hyun Shin, 72, of Wheaton, she said a possible expansion of Hollywood Road would bring Route 1 traffic, noise and pollution to her Cherry Hill neighborhood.“It would really just decrease my quality of life.”

Councilman Robert Day (Dist. 3) said the City Council has to pay close attention to how it handles the issue as well as the message it is sending to residents and local business owners.

“We need to support the community who has come out in a very, very, very strong voice saying they do not want this,” Day said.

But Councilman Patrick Wojahn (District 1) said a feasibility study is the only way to answer the many questions that remain about the project, including how to revitalize stretches of North College Park without negatively affecting existing businesses.

“Residents of College Park want to see changes in the Route 1 corridor in College Park,” Wojahn said.

Correction: The address listed for the building discussed in the story was incorrect.