Berwyn District Civic Association Thursday, January 15, 2015


  1. Agenda Item 1. Branchville Crossing Project. Armond McCoy, Daniel Cruz, Jr., John B. Cruz, III, and other individuals associated with the proposed Branchville Crossing Project gave an overview of the project and took questions from the audience.

    The proposed developer is Cruz Development Corporation. It will be a multi‐family apartment building. Cruz Development (CD) has already had initials meetings with others; the comments and concerns they received have been worked into the concept plan that they’re presenting today.

    Illustrations of both the original and revised proposals were available. The property is between Branchville Road and University Boulevard (193). Because of concerns expressed earlier about the proposed proximity to nearby houses, CD has eliminated the L‐shaped configuration and also moved it closer to 193. They propose to install a landscape buffer. The building will be 7 stories tall. The revised plan calls for the same occupancy as the previous plan – the same mix of one‐, two‐, and three‐bedroom apartments (53, 38, and 5 of each, respectively, for a total of 96 units). Ten of the units will be reserved for handicapped individuals. There will be a fence around the entire perimeter.

    The speakers gave a brief history of the corporation, which is the oldest minority‐owned construction company in all of New England.

    The Branchville property was purchased in 1986. The economy turned sour and CD decided not to develop it at that time. CD is ready to proceed with the development now and in fact is interested in expanding into this region more generally.

    Because the project would be financed with federal tax credits, it will not turn into a building for student housing. It is being pitched as a transportation‐oriented development because of its proximity to Greenbelt Metro station and several nearby bus stops. To qualify for tenancy, a family of four can’t earn more than $57,780.

    Brien O’Toole from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development was in attendance. That Department is the one that administers the federal tax credit that comes to the State. The credits are awarded through a competitive process. They’ve received 25 applications over the past year and will fund 11 of them. Applications are screened for threshold criteria and then rated for competitive criteria. The Qualified Allocation Plan is on the Department’s website. It isn’t uncommon for a project to come in as an application one year, not be successful, then learn from their experience and modify their initial conceptual plan as a result of feedback from the community, such as this meeting. The State ensures that the project is physically well maintained and occupied by the targeted households.

    Two housing developments formerly developed by the Cruz family are Taurus Apartments and Harvard Commons (harvardcommons.com). Both are in the Boston area. Harvard Commons was built in a tough neighborhood but now there’s a demand for housing in the neighborhood.

    The proposed development is not Section 8 housing. Families have to have an income.

    Although if someone’s income goes up once they’re living in this facility they’re not required to move out, many will choose to. Every household has to certify their income annually. People applying for residence are screened, given credit checks and background checks. Typically there’s a 1, 2, or 3 percent increase in rent annually, but some years none at all.

    Representatives from the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department had no comment about the proposed development at present.

    The original version of the site plan had 5 or 6 variances that were going to be required. The developers are looking over htose right now. The review being done is a limited site plan, not a full

    site plan. The momentum of this project is contingent on the aware of a tax credit. The developers cannot restrict tenants accepted to those who are already College Park residents. Cruz Management will manage the property. There will be occupancy limits so you won’t have a tenant trying to put 6 people in 2 bedrooms. Occupancy limits are enforced by an annual certification.

    There will be a play area for children.

    The developers are expecting there will be about 50 cars for the 96 units. Section 8 vouchers are not being accepted at this time but may be in the future.

    Danielle Glaros, P.G. County Councilmember for District 3, stated that no one knew that the land next to the fire house was zoned the way it was. It’s the first time she’s seen a project get underway that was first initiated so long ago. Sometimes on projects Iike this you don’t know everything under the developers formally file their application. No traffic study is required because the developers have already been through that part of the process. She and her Chief of Staff Aimee Olivo would be happy to answer any questions Berwyners may have.

    Representatives from Cruz Development would be happy to attend another BDCA meeting in the future if asked.


  2. Agenda Item 2. Dannielle Glaros, Member of P.G. County Council. Council Member Glaros passed out her business card and sent around a sign‐up sheet for those who wanted to receive an electronic newsletter from her office. She introduced her Chief of Staff, Aimee Olivo. She spoke about zoning. There has not been a comprehensive zoning rewrite in many years. Park and Planning, the County Executive, etc., tried to do it six years ago but failed. Now they’re putting together recommendations, which will be posted online at the end of the month. She encouraged everyone to attend the meeting about zoning on the 27th, from 6pm‐8pm, at the Parks and Recreation building on Kenilworth Avenue. We’ll be hearing a lot about zoning for the next year and a half. The next step is to hear from the public. We’ll read about it in the newspaper and hear about it from a lot of interest groups. There are some really interesting recommendations.


  3. Agenda Item 3. New Business. There was no new business.


  4. Agenda Item 4. Unfinished Business. There was no unfinished business.


  5. Agenda Item 5. College Park Academy. Bob Catlin reported that the Board of Directors of the College Park Academy has decided to enlarge its membership. The new Chair of the Board will be UMD President Wallace Loh. A number of other people with UMD ties and very impressive resumes have been appointed to the Board as well. This is a very exciting development for the Academy.


  6. Agenda Item 6. Mayor’s Report. College Park Mayor Andy Fellows stated that he agrees with Mr. Catlin that these new appointments to the Board of the College Park Academy are a good development. Some of the test scores from the Academy are among the highest in the State. The City is still on board and will continue to be engaged throughout the process but he is very glad that the University has taken on a much stronger role.

    Terry Schum (Planning Director for the City), the Mayor, and our City Council members are going to turn to our community in particular for our thoughts on the proposed Branchville Crossing project. City Manager Joe Nagro is retiring at the end of this fiscal year. The new manager, once hired, will come when a lot of new things are going on in College Park.

    The City is in its fifth year of its strategic plan.

    The builders of the hotel that’s supposed to go up across the street from UMD’s main

    entrance has gone to the State aviation authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration about getting approval for building exactly where they want to.


  7. Agenda Item 7. Neighborhood Watch. Nick Brennan, Neighborhood Watch Director, discussed recent crime and reminded Berwyners of safety measures to take. On January 4th, three individuals, one of them armed, entered a house on Potomac Avenue through an unlocked sliding glass door. Officer Black will keep Nick informed of any developments in the investigation of that crime.

Good Neighbor Day is in March. This year people will meet at the community center in Lakeland and proceed from there to Lake Artemesia, where there will be clean‐up activities. They also plan to do a 5K fun‐run/‐walk. More information will follow.


The meeting was adjourned at 10:00pm.


Meeting attendees (from sign‐up sheet):


Walt Bartlett Steve Bean Nick Brennan PJ Brennan Robert Catlin Frank Denevan Monroe Dennis

Christy Dollymore

R. Douglas Larry Garnes Daria Giraldo

Harvey Himmelfarb Marge Himmelfarb Karyn Keating‐Volke Bob Kuligowski Elizabeth Kuligowski Liesl Koch

Marie Labonte Richard Leizear Beth McAllister Brien O’Toole Carl Patterson

Harry Pitt Chad Stern Thomas Tanner

Frankie Tomlinson Sandy Tyler Richard Valentich Kevin Young


Liesl Koch, Recording Secretary, BDCA.