Area residents railed Thursday against plans to build a massive warehouse in Westphalia that proposes to create nearly 1,800 jobs, arguing it will also generate unwanted noise and traffic congestion.
More than 100 people packed a board room at the administration building in Upper Marlboro for a Prince George’s County Planning Commission meeting on the 4 million-square-foot warehouse, with most of them opposing the project.
Lena Young, an Upper Marlboro resident who has lived in her house since 2015, said truck traffic for the proposed warehouse, which would operate around the clock, would create noise and pollution without a natural buffer near her neighborhood.
Another woman, who declined to identify herself, said she came to get information for her daughter, Shannon Chapman, who lives near the 78-acre site and wrote a four-page letter opposing the Westphalia Town Center project.
“Construction and operation of a logistics warehouse will lead to increases in traffic, environmental detriment and further delay in access to a grocery store and fresh food options,” Chapman said in the letter. “This directly impacts community health, as the food desert we live in has limited fresh food options.”
The land was rezoned more than 10 years ago, undergoing three different variations to its current iteration as a mixed-use, transportation-oriented zoning district.
After nearly nine hours, the planned commission conditionally granted approval to the project, which will be subjected to a 30-day appeal period before heading to the District Council.
The District Council, which consists of county council members who review land-use and zoning matters, decided this year to add the definition of a merchandise logistics center and amend definition of regional urban community in the zoning ordinance.
According to the ordinance, a merchandise logistics center would be a business “where goods or products are received and may be sorted, packed and stored for the purpose of distribution to parcel carriers or delivery directly to a consumer.”
Tom Haller, an attorney who represents the applicant, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based Duke Construction Limited Partnership, presented a few changes to the proposal that included shuttle bus services for workers if no agreement can be reached with Metro.
He also presented letters of support from three county organizations: Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce and the county branch of the NAACP.
“This project would not only help the tax base, but also bring jobs,” said NAACP President Bob Ross in a phone interview. “Everybody doesn’t work for the federal government. We need jobs for everybody.”
Some residents, including Leathey Chandler, who moved into her home from Landover in March, suggested the vacant Landover Mall site would serve as a better location for traffic adjacent to the Beltway.
The current tract in Upper Marlboro sits about two miles south of Interstate 95.
“This will impact my son’s health,” Chandler said. “The traffic going to work will be a nightmare. Think as if you were living there.”