After years of delays, park planners and a developer are close to ironing out differences about a shared-access road needed for a regional park and a commercial development near the Bowie Baysox baseball stadium.
The developer, W.F. Chesley Real Estate of Crofton, is pressing the county for approvals so it can begin marketing sites for stores, offices and a hotel in its planned Mill Branch Crossing center.
Agreement on the access road also would enable the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to resume preparations for building multipurpose athletic fields in what will be named Green Branch Regional Park.
“We’re hoping all three sports — soccer, lacrosse and football — can use those fields,” said Harlan Tucker, chairman of Bowie’s Community Recreation Commission.
Tucker said demand for Bowie fields is greater than the supply, and the commission welcomes the $9 million athletic complex on the east side of Md. 301 on 94 acres owned by the regional parks commission.
Opening of the first ball fields, expected this spring, has been delayed while park planners and Chesley resolve issues with the access road, such as stormwater management, grading and preserving the remains of a Colonial-era building.
Russell Baker, a Chesley representative, said if county planning board approvals for Mill Branch Crossing go forward, the regional parks agency could begin work on the road by late summer.
“I believe that is realistic and possible,” said Adrian R. Gardner, general counsel for the park and planning commission.
Gardner said depending on the outcome of a scheduled county planning board hearing on May 31, bids for the roadwork could be taken this summer.
At the hearing, Chesley expects to submit a preliminary plan for the Mill Branch Crossing site and also ask for approval to submit more detailed plans in phases, rather than all at once, as it lines up tenants.
Chesley’s 74-acre Mill Branch Crossing site is on the northeast corner of Md. 301 and Mill Branch Road, with the park’s athletic complex site bordering it on its northwest side.
The two parties had been working on an access road off Mill Branch Road that would run through the shopping center property to the landlocked park site.
But a snag emerged: The entrance originally was proposed about midway along the Chesley property line along Mill Branch Road and the State Highway Administration had concerns about traffic backing up along Mill Branch Road, and the entrance road was moved farther east to Chesley’s eastern property line.
But then remains of a structure built in the 1700s were discovered near the new route that the county’s Historic Preservation Commission wants to preserve.
The Mill Branch Crossing project also will require Chesley to widen parts of rural Mill Branch Road east of Md. 301 from two lanes to five to accommodate traffic.
The developer also will be required to plant trees and other buffers between its property and bordering farmland, including cropland off Mill Branch Road that the Terry family has owned since the late 1800s.
Owner Thomas Terry said he worries about water runoff and trash blowing onto his property, as well as noise and light pollution. Baker said those concerns will be addressed with a buffer and redirected stormwater.
“This has always been a strong community over the years, with the farmers working together,” Terry said. “We don’t want things to go downhill.”