BOWIE – The mayor and city council spent more than an hour on Sept. 15 discussing a revision of the Prince George’s County zoning ordinance. The county is currently conducting a comprehensive rewrite of the County’s Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations. According to the council, this project will make the policy more user-friendly. “It’s not […]
BOWIE – The mayor and city council spent more than an hour on Sept. 15 discussing a revision of the Prince George’s County zoning ordinance.
The county is currently conducting a comprehensive rewrite of the County’s Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations. According to the council, this project will make the policy more user-friendly.
“It’s not unusual for a county at our stage of development to have an ordinance that was written many years ago at a time when the county was transitioning from rural to suburban and the ordinance worked for many years,” said Derick Berlage, Chief of Countywide Planning. “But we’re a very different county today.”
Berlage said the county has 15 metro stations, an increasing number of mixed use developments where residential, office and retail are being co-located in hopes of creating great mixed-use communities that are walkable.
“We need an ordinance that will help us get the kind of development that the community wants,” said Berlage. “So the new ordinance will hopefully be shorter, more contemporary in its approach, more logically oriented and most important, easier for the citizen to understand.”
Berlage said he and his team are reaching out to the public to engage the community and stakeholders in the rewriting process.
So far, three community meetings were held in different parts of the county, with about 50 people attending each one. Focus group meetings with smaller groups of stakeholders—business leaders, citizens and municipalities—have also been held to discuss the rewriting of the zoning ordinance.
“We’ve also had dozens of individual interviews with people who use the ordinance and by the time we’re done I’m sure we’ll have had interviewed hundreds who use the ordinance,” said Berlage. “We’re really looking for saturation outreach because this ordinance is so important and because the stakes are so high, we want as much input as we can get and that’s our goal.”
Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he hopes the rewrite will make the planning process more transparent, efficient, and effective and ensures all the stakeholders are included.
“One of the problems we have now is that if you want to bring a new business into the city for example with five or 600 employees, you’ve got to go through the city, through the county, through the planning board and into the state,” Robinson said. “There’s like 18 different processes and the permitting process is different for each one of those. So what we want to do is see that they’re all consolidated so that there’s a single process so that if you want to bring business to the community, it goes through a standard. We’re not going to loosen the standards for you but we want it to be predictable and transparent so that everybody in the process knows exactly what to do.”
Councilmember Dennis Brady said the revision process is a “monumental challenge” because the zoning ordinance is a massive document that governs everything the council does in regards to zoning and permitting.
“I have some concerns but those are typical of the task of this nature where there’s a massive rewrite,” Brady said. “There’s a good chance that if you try to streamline it and make it better you may in fact make it worse in some areas.”
According to Brady, it’s been fifty years since the code was adopted and there are 1,300 pages in the current code. The goal, Berlage said, is to have a new ordinance in place early in calendar 2017. The Prince George’s County Council will have the final say on whether or not the zoning ordinance rewrite is approved.