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Worksession Minutes
June 15, 2009


The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Present were Mayor Calvo, Mayor Pro Tem (MPT) Lofgren, Councilmembers (CMs) Ahrens, Dennison and Wilkinson. Also present were Town Administrator (TA) Murphy, Clerk Harper and David Kaufman representing Craft Star Homes.

1. Mayor

Announcements: The Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) will host a breakfast meeting on draft legislation “Urban Centers and Corridor Nodes Development Code of Prince George's County” on June 16 at the Sports & Learning Center.

Calendar: The August worksessions were consolidated on August 10. The September 7 worksession was moved to Tuesday, September 1. Beginning in July, discussions about community outreach, speed cameras as well as lowering the homestead tax cap will commence.

Minutes: On a motion by CM Ahrens and second by MPT Lofgren, the June 2 worksession minutes were approved 5 to 0. The May 10 Town meeting minutes were distributed for review and adoption at the June 10 Town meeting.

Department reports: Mayor Calvo reported that he and his wife Trinity attended Edmonston Day last Saturday. It is similar to Berwyn Heights Day; it didn't have as many activities, but all rides were free. At the Maryland Municipal League (MML) conference, he will moderate a workshop on overcrowded housing, as well as make a presentation on the subject. It is the culmination of his chairing a legislative subcommittee on overcrowded housing for the past year. MPT Lofgren reported that Public Works trimmed the poison ivy prior to an application of herbicide along the fence surrounding the school field. PGCPS' Facilities Maintenance Department finally cut the grass around the tennis and basketball courts. CM Wilkinson said that, as a new Councilmember, he doesn't have anything to report as of yet. However, he would like to meet with the web master of the Town's website to discuss possible improvements.

CM Dennison reported that, at its last meeting, the Recreation Council had a recap of Berwyn Heights Day and a discussion about programming activities for teenagers. Officers Bennett and Roberson were in attendance. One outcome was a movie night for teens on July 25, featuring The Dark Knight, with Rad Orthodontics sponsoring the event. She also attended a meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission at Surratt House on June 13 and brought back information for the Historical Committee. The Historical Committee received its plaque of former Councilmembers. Mayor Calvo said that the Town wide yard sale went well. Twenty nine households were on the map. However, many yard sellers along Pontiac Street chose not to pay $3 to get on the map. CM Ahrens reported that the Code Department collected $825 in fines last month, most of which relate to late rental license renewals and tall grass.

Citizen comments: CM Ahrens received a comment on traffic enforcement. MPT Lofgren spoke with his neighbor, whose home flooded with sewage during the recent heavy rains, and ruined his newly refinished basement. Mayor Calvo also received a number of reports on flooded homes. The June 10 downpour was one of the worst in memory.

Metroland - Craft Star Homes presentation: Mayor Calvo welcomed David Kaufman, who was in attendance to give a presentation on changes in elevation (facades) of town homes to be built at the Greenbelt Station Development. Mr. Kaufman said that Craft Star Homes has replaced Pulte Homes as the builder of the town homes at Greenbelt Station. Craft Star Homes is a private company that builds homes on finished lots, mostly in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Mayor Calvo said the Town was told that Greenbelt Station/Metroland developer, Daniel Colton, filed for bankruptcy early in 2009, canceled all contracts with builders and let all employees go. The Town was unaware that the property changed hands and that construction is to go forward. Mr. Kaufman said he knows nothing about Metroland; Craft Star Homes has a contract with GB Development LLC to purchase a set of 40 finished lots and build 20 foot wide town homes. However, Daniel Colton is a partner in GB Development. Mayor Calvo clarified that the Town has an agreement with the Metroland/Greenbelt Station developer that is written into the deed of the property. In the agreement, the Town commits itself to support the development in exchange for a $1 million cash payment to mitigate the impacts of the development. Half of the sum was to be paid at the first out-sale of town homes and the other half after the final sale. However, since the presumed bankruptcy of the developer sometime in January 2009, the Town has not heard anything from Mr. Colton or Greenbelt Development LLC.

Mr. Kaufman said that Craft Star Homes would like to move quickly towards construction and get approval for the proposed changes in the facades of the town homes without having to go before the County Planning Board. At this stage, his company is working on the plans with Greenbelt's Planning Department, which has final approval over the changes. Mayor Calvo said that he has no problem with the appearance of the town homes. He trusts the facade changes will be subject to a thorough review by the City of Greenbelt. He is more concerned about the larger issue, which is that the developer is making all these changes without notification, as required per said agreement with the Town of Berwyn Heights. While he is pleased to hear that Mr. Colton's company is not bankrupt and that the development will resume, he is not inclined to support any changes, in site plan or in elevation, until the Town is told what is going on with the development. It is unfair to Mr. Kaufman and Craft Star Homes, who are not familiar with the history of the development, to be confronted with prior obligations. However, he hopes that Mr. Kaufman will take these concerns back to the developer.

TA Murphy asked if Craft Star Homes can provide the Town with a copy of its purchase contract with the developer. Mr. Kaufman said that he does not have it and can't make any promises that it will be provided. In response to other questions, he said that the homes to be built would be located fairly close to the entrance of the development, and that the access road would have to be finished before construction begins. The storm water management system and other infrastructure are part of the developer's responsibility. At this point, he does not know which school children from the development might attend. In response to questions about the appearance of the town homes, Mr. Kaufman said that the facades of the Craft Star Homes are plainer than those proposed by Pulte but are real stone and brick. Type of windows, entrances and color of brick are under discussion with Greenbelt. The rear of the town homes are to be covered with a low maintenance siding.

Mr. Kaufman continued that the deadline for interested parties to be briefed and to comment on the changes in elevation is June 29. If the interested parties want the Planning Board to review the plans, the approval process will be prolonged by at least one month. If there is no Planning Board review, the process will move faster. However, start of construction depends on the negotiations with the City of Greenbelt. He will have a clearer idea as to when construction might begin after the next meeting with Greenbelt's City Council on June 25.

In response to Mayor Calvo, Mr. Kaufman said that a request to push back the June 29 deadline for comments from interested parties would need to be made to the Planning Board, which set the original date. If the amendment of the detailed site plan to change the elevations is sent to the Planning Board, Craft Star Homes will cancel its contract to build at this development. Craft Star Homes wants to build on finished lots as soon as possible to take advantage of federal tax credits, which expire at the end of the year. TA Murphy asked Mr. Kaufman to furnish him with a copy of the contact with the company that is selling Craft Star the finished lots so that he might talk to them. Mr. Kaufman agreed.

At 8:15 p.m., the Council took a 10 minute break.

2. Administration

Berwyn Road bridge fence selection: TA Murphy explained that the Council needs to make a selection of what type of fence or rail should be used for the Berwyn Road Bridge when it is rebuilt so that the State Highway Administration (SHA) can finalize the design. The standard ornamental fence is 3.3' on a 2' parapet. The standard railing is about the same height but has gaps between the rails and may be less safe for children. Standard fence or rail comes at no additional cost. If the Town requests a custom fence or railing, it would need to spend additional money. Other aspects of the bridge repair include replacement of the deck, addition of concrete rip rap to protect the footers and the installment of lamp posts at each end of the bridge. 

After some discussion, the Council selected the standard rails as the preferred option, which will leave the view of the creek unobstructed.

Year-end budget report: Mayor Calvo asked the Council to review the year-end budget report provided by TA Murphy to see how well actual revenues and expenditures match what was budgeted. He noted that revenues are still somewhat uncertain. However, real property tax revenues came in well above projections, while personal property taxes came in under budget. Personal property back taxes from the Pepco substation are still outstanding. Highway User Revenues (HUR) are expected to come in at $150,000 falling short of what was budgeted by 22%. Responding to CM Wilkinson, Mayor Calvo said that most debt owed on a 1996 infrastructure bond is principal, which will be paid off next year. This will free up money that could be made available for future infrastructure repairs. On Cunningham Drive, a sink hole needs to be repaired, which is estimated to cost $10,000.

Nothing was discussed under 3. Code Compliance and 4. Parks and Recreation.

5. Public Safety

Youth programming: Mayor Calvo said that the Town has a larger number of teenagers now, whose families moved into Berwyn Heights when the elementary school opened in 2002. Many teens hang out at Pop's Park or roam the streets when school is out. He believes it is incumbent on the Town to look at this issue and take steps to prevent potential problems, such as accidents or vandalism, associated with teenagers. The Town may need to work more closely with the community center and Town organizations to identify and set up activities that keep them busy. The community center, which is run by M-NCPPC Recreation Department, already offers some teen programs and has many resources that could be tapped into. A Town resident has started a karate class that is very popular. He is interested in expanding the program. Officer Bennett has been tasked in working with teens to identify activities and community service opportunities. The Berwyn Heights Recreation Council has discussed the issue and arranged for a teen movie night at Sports Park sponsored by Rad Orthodontics.

CM Dennison said that she has spoken with Christy Irving, who is the director of the Berwyn Heights Community Center. Teen programs already offered include X-treme Teens and a basketball league. Other activities that may be of interest include dance lessons, pool parties, and teen nights. CM Dennison noted that she and several other parents hosted teen nights at the Town Center when her children were younger. Holy Redeemer Church also offers youth programs many Berwyn Heights children take part in.

Mayor Calvo said that teens enjoy skate boarding but are at risk when they skate board in the streets. There may be a possibility of renting skate park elements from Park & Planning or renting Greenbelt's skate park for certain periods. It was noted that Park & Planning has a teen specialist who might be consulted. The Council agreed to reach out to Park & Planning about available resources and to invite a teen specialist to come to discuss youth programming. County Councilmember Eric Olson could also be invited and asked for input. CM Wilkinson said that Town organizations such as the Men's League and Boys & Girls Club could be approached for ideas and assistance. Mayor Calvo said that he would contact Americorps to find out if the Town is eligible to receive an Americorps volunteer, who would work with teens.

Nothing was discussed under 6. Public Works.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

Signed: Kerstin Harper, Town Clerk

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