Residents Oppose New Town Center in Upper Marlboro

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Senior citizens and other residents in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, are fighting a proposal to radically change zoning in their community.

Land-use issues have been igniting disputes between residents and the county council as more landowners and developers seek to drastically change what can be built and where.

The latest battle is over 60 acres of land on Pennsylvania Avenue between Woodyard Road and Marlboro Pike.

“I don't think they're there to support developers,” resident Kathy Ogle said. “They’re there to support the citizens.”

Senior citizens in Upper Marlboro's Marwood community are opposed to the possibility of a large development across from their community.

“You can't even get in and out of the community during rush hour,” resident Christina Hough said.

Landowners want to change the area from rural residential to mixed-use transportation.

“Once it gets rezoned to mixed-used transportation, anything, and I mean anything that's legal, can be built up there,” Hough said.

The change could make way for hotels, restaurants, a gas station with a convenience store, an office building, a strip mall and almost 200 townhomes across the highway from the Westphalia Town Center that's under construction.

“People coming out of the District of Columbia or elsewhere going south on Pennsylvania Avenue, it's hard to cross over to Westphalia, but on this side of the road, there is nothing, and this will be providing an opportunity for restaurants and other type of uses and stuff at this location,” said Arthur Horne, attorney for the landowner.

The planning department voted against the development, saying it did not fit the county's plan for that area, a point attorneys for the landowners argued before the council Monday.

“They’re called plans,” attorney Russell Shipley said. “They’re meant to be guidelines. They are not strict requirements.”

Radical zoning changes that contradict the county's plan have upset other senior communities, recently, including residents near Six Flags.

“The developers are not from here; the people that are owning it, the people that will be doing the building are not from here,” resident Charles Askins said. “We are the people who are supposed to be represented by the council.”

The council decided not to vote on the zoning Monday, but it may take it back up again before the end of the month.

People who live in the Marwood Senior community say they polled residents and found that 80% of the residents there are opposed to the rezoning. The attorneys for the developer say they are scrapping the idea of a gas station for the project. 

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