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From Field to Future Dreams

From Field to Future Dreams

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“Go the distance.”

Like the film's main character, Smith has had to listen to his inner voice advising him to go the distance. From the start, local residents raised objections. Their views of open fields would be obstructed by the new office structures. Then there were those who opposed the influx of more residents to an already congested area. “Residents were concerned that these new homebuyers would create gridlock and be the cause of new taxes,” says Smith.

Complicating the reclamation effort was the complex zoning situation. Mining and production operations predated nearby cities. As such, the operations were issued and monitored by Prince George's County under special use permits. Over the years, Smith's operations had complied fully with these regulations.

But when the development group filed for the new construction permits, everything changed. Since the permits weren't for mining or production, responsibility for their issuance fell to the nearby cities and communities. Smith had to start from scratch. “It was as if all of our efforts to be a good neighbor for more than 80 years meant nothing,” he says.

The new permitting process frustrated Smith. He claims that the red tape generated by all the various municipal entities almost killed the project before it stated. Smith says he attended several meetings with local officials during the main permit hearing process. Fortunately, Smith explains, the planning officials from Prince George's County, sensing a good idea was about to go bad, stepped in as mediators and helped broker an approach that satisfied everyone's concerns.

Smith was surprised by how long the zoning approval process took. It took him about three years to get his property re-zoned from special use to residential development. Then it took another five to six years to get baseline approval for his operating permits.

“You people are guests in my corn.”

Smith projects that the entire land transformation process will cost about $10 million. It's a massive undertaking, as the transformation plan had three components. First, they had to finalize the grading along the banks that allowed Indian Creek to flow through the southern portion of the property. When finished, they will have preserved and restored about 111 acres.

The second effort was to stabilize 24 acres into which fine sand from the aggregate washing operation had been deposited. This area was to be reconditioned by creating enough soil bearing to allow construction of single-family, attached housing.

This was accomplished by plugging more than 25,000 hollow wicks into the spongy soil, followed by using a dynamic compactor. As the compactor shakes the soil, the wicks allow the water to drift to the surface and be drawn off. When city officials first heard of this plan, they rejected it. Plans proceeded only after county engineers verified that this was an acceptable reclamation method.

The third major initiative was the break-out, transportation, and final placement of the material from the concrete washout area. This was more complex than it first seemed. After the excavation, the area had to be returned to wetland status. Crews have removed more than 50,000 cubic yards of fill. Much of this material was placed as cover on the washout area.

Greenbelt Station Facts

When Alfred Smith's project is completed, his family's former production facility will be transformed into a planned community consisting of:

  • 2200 upscale homes
  • 1.1 million square feet of upscale retail and entertainment
  • 1.2 million square feet of offices
  • 300 hotel rooms
  • 111 acres of public parkland