Berwyn District Civic Association Meeting

February 20, 2020


Meeting came to order at 7:35 p.m.  Meeting held in Fealy Hall. BDCA Board Members in attendance: Bob Catlin, Jim Nealis, Lily Fountain, Christy Dollymore, Karyn Keating-Volke, Ron Cameau. Chad Stern. Other attendees included Kevin Young, Oscar Gregory, John Dollymore, PJ Brennan, Emily Friend, Kyle McCormick, Brooks Boliek, Harvey & Margaret Himmelfarb, Joshua Westgard, Sandy Tyler, Tom Tanner (Branchville VFD), and three UM Student observers. Also, three representatives from Cruz Development, and Terry Schum from the city.


Bob Catlin asked for and received approval of the November, 2019 and January, 2020 minutes.  .


Jim Nealis gave a short presentation about the upcoming census and the Census Palooza event at Duvall Field on March 21, Noon – 3 p.m.  All city residents are invited for games, food, and census presentations.


Dan Lynch from Cruz said applications had been filed for their Branchville apartment project in November. The building is “work force” housing, with 81 units (20 1-BR, 56 2-BR, 5 3-BR).  5 floors of residences, 2 floors parking plus some parking lot spaces (128 total, 37 on lot).  They are still awaiting Park & Planning approvals, then will go to city, maybe by June/July.  Mr. Lynch asked attendees to submit concerns to them soon, before final plans are submitted.  The two lower parking floors will have windows or screening to help ‘hide’ the parking structure.  Lower floors will be brick-covered, upper two floors will be wood or board.  One entry/exit driveway from Branchville Rd.  Chad Stern asked if the building will be too close against the homes on the west side – Lynch said it all meets zoning laws, about 40’ of space between wall and home owner fences.  The driveway entrance will align with 49th Ave., but residents will not be allowed to make left turn onto Branchville Rd. when exiting the project.  Karyn Keating worried that the traffic study was 30+ years old, Lynch said all road alignments, improvements, etc., in that area since then took the planned apartment bldg. into consideration.  Mr. Tanner claimed the location was over 1 mile from the Metro Station, so they needed 190 parking spaces, Lynch argued they were within 1 mile and only needed 128. 


A heated discussion erupted when Chad Stern asked if there were requirements that residents had to be gainfully employed, or at least a certain share of them did.  He was concerned that the building would possibly be occupied by folks with ‘Section 8’ housing vouchers, and the idea of housing for the ‘work force’ would fall by the wayside.  Cruz representatives tried to claim such questions were discriminatory, and said Cruz can’t control who moves into the building – i.e., they can’t ‘discriminate’ against renters with such vouchers.  This caused some consternation among attendees.  As planned, the top income a potential tenant can have would be 60% or less than the area-wide median income. 


Lynch told us the building would be secure, have cameras, parking permits needed to park, etc.  Management will be present during the day.  Mr. Tanner asked about fire truck access around the building and was told to submit his question in writing to the architect.  Tanner also said the parking lot, when full of cars, would not have room for fire trucks to turn around.  Lily Fountain asked about noise reduction – they will look into that.  Cruz estimates about 50% of units will be for families – the bldg. will need to pay the school facilities surcharge, perhaps $9,000 per unit.  They are not applying for any College Park tax exemptions, but their bonds are funded by the state of Maryland using a 4% tax credit based on construction costs.


No old business, so we moved on to new business. PJ Brennan said the trolley trail will finally be completed across the open area along Berwyn Road near the Yoga studio – an agreement was reached.  Permit parking is coming to 48th Ave. between Berwyn Rd. and Pontiac, and maybe along Osage and Pontiac itself.  The new “Tempo” apartments (at the Burger King (just closed last week) site) will get a city tax credit for cleaning the brownfield site and floodplain adjustments. They will pay about ½ of the school facility surcharge.  A wood barrier has been placed where Rhode Island Ave. crosses Greenbelt Rd.  Lily Fountain asked about lighting – PJ said the city has a “night sky” ordinance to control that.  Also, they are looking into planting more ‘native species’ in the area, and the city may reduce mowing and allow wild grass/plants to grow.  He said Park and Planning had trimmed/cut an excessive number of trees near the city airport. 


The new Alloy Apt. bldg. on Berwyn House Rd. just sold for $98,000,000.  And the Landmark Bldg. (where the Maryland Book Exchange once stood) sold for $330 per square foot – most expensive psf sale in the U.S.?


Kevin Young told us he did not pursue the issues he raised last month about the Cruz bldg. not meeting the agreements Cruz signed with the BDCA 30 years ago because those issues will come up in future discussions.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:20 p.m.


Notes compiled by Jim Nealis