Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Historic site stripped for Tanger Outlet National Harbor project

by Mimi Liu, Staff Writer - Gazette.net

Sealing the fate of an almost two centuries-old Oxon Hill historic site, Prince George’s County’s Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to support removing some of its environmental protections, making way for a developer’s proposal to build an 80-store outlet mall and hotel on the grounds.

The decision follows months of objections by community groups who say the 2.7-acre Salubria plantation should be preserved because of its importance to the county’s black history.

The plantation sits in the middle of the proposed 44-acre planned Tanger Outlets being developed by National Harbor’s developer, the Peterson Cos. based in Fairfax, Va

The county planning board will hold a public hearing Thursday for Peterson Cos. to present a site plan on the proposed 460,000-square-foot development of Tanger Outlets and a hotel on the Salubria site across from National Harbor.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Peterson Cos. had to agree that development of the site would not begin until existing artifacts have been removed and preserved, and an agreement has been reached with surrounding communities on a Salubria memorial.

The main house at Salubria where Dr. John H. Bayne and his family resided does not exist anymore.

Bayne, a prominent white physician and horticulturist who also served as a member of the county’s school board, worked to provide public education to freed slaves even after a slave girl poisoned his children in 1834.

In its findings, county Park and Planning staff concluded that protection of the 2.7 acres should be removed because the site has few existing physical structures that can be restored or preserved, and the best way for the site to be preserved is through archaeological removal.

The decision was a blow to Bonnie Bick, a resident of Oxon Hill Road and co-founder of the civic group known as the Campaign to Reinvest in the Heart of Oxon Hill, which has fought for a number of years to save Salubria.

“It’s a mistake to take away the historic designation because the message it is sending is there is nothing of historic value to save.

“It’s just like cutting down the forest and naming the project after the forest,” she added.

Wednesday’s meeting spanned six hours with presentations from Park and Planning officials and representatives for Peterson Cos., as well as testimonies from more than 15 county residents.

Joyce Thorpe of Fort Washington said more historic sites in Prince George’s County should be protected, and cited the impacts that the outlets would have on residents’ quality of life.

“I do not want the site desecrated or removed by anyone, especially [not by] a developer who has a shopping center across the street in National Harbor,” she said.

Alfonso Narvaez, a Fort Washington resident and chair of the county’s Historical and Cultural Trust, said a Salubria memorial built at the outlet center would be more impactful than an empty parcel of land with very few remaining physical structures.

“We’re interpreting the history of Salubria in a way that it can’t be relegated to the background,” he said.

The commission also voted to remove Salubria from the county’s Inventory of Historic Sites and Districts, which it had been placed on 30 years ago.

In late May, the county’s Historic Preservation Commission approved archaeological studies to examine the historical value of the Salubria property.

According to the report from Thunderbird Archaeology, based in Gainesville, Va., whom Peterson hired to conduct the study, several cultural features associated with the 19th century occupation of the site were discovered, including a terra cotta water pipe and associated trench that may have been used to transport water from the well or pump house to the dairy.

The group also found other items such as fragments of window glass and flower pots, the buttock of a doll dating to the late 19th or early 20th century, and a clear bottle with a prescription lip, said Jennifer Stabler, a staff archaeologist with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

William Shipp, a lawyer representing the Peterson Cos., said that had the original structures on the property not been destroyed, the site proposal would have been “a different design than what we have today.”

The main house and surrounding buildings occupied about 22.5 acres, but an environmental setting established in 1995 protected only 2.7 acres of the site through the Historic Preservation Commission’s review of a development proposal.

In 2003, a historic permit was approved that allowed for the demolition of remaining structures on the property, except an old milk house/dairy due to its advanced level of deterioration.
Commissioner Robert H. Schnabel said it was “unfortunate” that the milk house/dairy had not been maintained properly.

“What was done was inadequate, and it’s completely gone now,” he said.

June White-Dillard, president of the African American Heritage Preservation Group, who is heading the Salubria memorialization group, said proposals for a memorial at the outlets include statues of select individuals in narrative poses reflecting the story of Salubria, an interactive video, commemorative plaques and floral or plant arrangements representing Bayne’s horticulture work.

Dillard said the estimated cost for such a memorial to be constructed would be $450,000 to $500,000. She said the group is still ironing out details on how much Peterson Cos. would contribute.

Representatives for Peterson Cos. did not address how much they would contribute to the memorial at Thursday’s meeting.

David A. Turner, the commission’s chairman, said as part of the next archaeology survey, artifacts will be removed from the site and preserved at the Maryland Archaeological Lab at the Jefferson

Patterson Park in Calvert County or could be incorporated into the future Salubria memorial.
Margaret White of Capitol Heights said more effort needs to be made countywide to educate people on the history of Salubria and the Bayne family.

“There is an elementary school in my community named after John Bayne,” she said. “No one knows who he was or what he did.”

If you go
The Prince George’s County Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday on the first floor of the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

Representatives for Peterson Cos. will present a conceptual site plan for the proposed 460,000-square-foot development of Tanger Outlets and a hotel on the Salubria site across from National Harbor.

The address is 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive.

For information, call the Development Review Division at 301-952-3530. Individuals who need special assistance should call 301-952-3560 (TTY 301-952-3796) for accommodations.

In case of inclement weather, call 301-952-5330 to verify the status of the Planning Board meeting.

No comments:

Post a Comment