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Maryland Airport Slated To Be Developed Into Large Housing Project

A privately owned airport in the D.C. suburbs could soon be shuttered to make way for a residential development.

An aerial view of the Freeway Airport site along Route 50 in Bowie

St. John Properties filed an application that is scheduled to be heard next week by the Prince George's County Planning Board to build 509 residential units on the site of the Freeway Airport in Bowie. 

The 132-acre airport property sits at the intersection of Route 50 and Church Road, roughly 11 miles outside of D.C. The airport has been owned by the Rodenhauser family since 1947, and it currently operates as a flight school and maintenance facility. 

The business has faced financial difficulties for the last two decades, since flight regulations were changed after 9/11, Kim Rodenhauser said at a Prince George's County Council hearing in September 2019. Because of these financial issues, she said the family is looking to close the airport and redevelop the property. She read a letter to the council from her father, Stan Rodenhauser, who died in July 2019. 

Days after the council hearing, a small plane that took off from the airport crashed onto Route 50 and struck a car. No one was seriously injured, but the incident heightened the controversy around the airport's continued operation, WTOP reported. A representative for the airport declined to give her name or a comment when reached by phone Thursday morning.

A site plan for the development on the Freeway Airport property in Bowie

The County Council in November passed a bill that changed the site's zoning to allow for higher residential density. The site had previously been zoned to allow one unit for every 2 acres, but the change increased it ninefold to allow 4.5 units per acre.

While the zoning change passed, it faced some opposition from Bowie officials and residents over the scale of the density increase. Much of the opposition centered around traffic concerns on Church Road, which people at the hearing described as a rural road. Council Member Derrick Leon Davis, who sponsored the bill, said the notion that the road is rural is outdated.  

“There was a time when Church Road was a rural road, and that was many decades ago,” Davis said during the September 2019 hearing. “It’s not a rural road anymore. It’s suburban leaning toward moving more urban since the development of Fairwood.” 

Fairwood is an 1,800-home subdivision built around 15 years ago, just north of the airport.  

St. John Properties plans to use the new zoning designation to build 509 residences on the site with a density of 4.23 units per acre. It is calling for 416 townhouses and 93 single-family detached houses. The company declined to comment. 

The planning commission staff recommended approval of the project last week, conditioned on the developer providing additional analyses for noise, environmental impact and other issues. The planning board is scheduled to consider it at its Oct. 29 hearing. 

UPDATE, OCT. 22, 1:55 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from the September 2019 hearing. 

CORRECTION, OCT. 22, 2:25 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to reflect that while Freeway Airport is privately owned, it is open to the public.