UPPER MARLBORO — The County Council sitting as the Committee of the Whole met to take feedback from the public on the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations Rewrite on July 10. The assemblage was the second of three meetings dedicated to getting public feedback on the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite that has been in the works […]
UPPER MARLBORO — The County Council sitting as the Committee of the Whole met to take feedback from the public on the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations Rewrite on July 10.
The assemblage was the second of three meetings dedicated to getting public feedback on the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite that has been in the works since 2014.
During the meeting, they discussed three sections of the ordinance created by legislation in April of this year relating to the zones and their uses. Those sections were the proposed for the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance Rewrite, the proposed Comprehensive Countywide Map Amendment Process, and the proposed Comprehensive Subdivision Regulations Rewrite.
“These bills tonight are the culmination of more than five years of work with stakeholders throughout the county to develop new 21st century zoning ordinance and subdivision to provide the county with robust modern zoning, community outreach engagement and regulatory enforcement rules that facilitate implementation of Prince George’s Plan 2035 General Plan which in and of itself was a long effort,” said Norman Rivera who participated in giving feedback.
The council is in the process of rewriting the original zoning ordinance, a document consisting of over 1,000 pages of potential property use, zones and their development that has not been updated in over 50 years. Following the failed other attempts at a new countywide plan, such as the 2002 General Plan which, according to the Planning Department, ten years later fell short of meeting the proposed vision of residential development and transportation improvement, the council began its current rewrite and adopted a new general plan.
The new general plan, Plan 2035, is a comprehensive 20-year plan for economic growth in the county. Plan 2035 intends to capitalize on areas of the county which have shown promise to be financial centers which principally include northern parts of the county such as the College Park, Largo, Greenbelt and Prince George’s Plaza Metro areas as well as the National Harbor.
In order to implement Plan 2035, the council must rewrite the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations. The current rewrite goes in with the goal of streamlining and simplifying the development approval process, modernizing and consolidating the zones and development standards, incentivizing development areas and protecting and enhancing stable residential neighborhoods.
“This plan needs to be passed and the old zoning regulations which were ineffective need to be thrown out,” said Margaret Boles, a county resident of over 50 years, during the meeting. “This plan is simpler, clearer and it serves the people with better helpful situations, more walkable streets and more transit-oriented development for sustainable commutes.”
Those in attendance at the meeting were encouraged to give feedback on the current state of the rewrite. About 15 people who were either members of local businesses and organizations or who came as individuals, spoke to the council and were generally in favor of the progress made so far.
“We are in strong support of passing the Zoning Rewrite project,” said Indian Head Highway Area Action Council President Sarah Cavitt. “A lot of it is because we know how much work has gone into getting this far. We’ve gotten this far, don’t tell all of us who have been involved for the last ten years that it’s all for nothing.”
Despite the progress made on the rewrite, there was still concern that individual issues would slip through the cracks.
Public Health Advocate Alison Mendoza-Walters spoke of her concern about the vague language of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) in the rewrite and made recommendations for how the council can strengthen them to “preserve, protect, and promote the health of all residents.”
“The language around health outcome is currently vague, and one can interpret positive health outcomes, which is the language used, and adverse health outcomes as narrowly or broadly as one would like.”
She went on to say that public stakeholders such as health officials and residents should be directly involved in the decision-making process.
“The suggestion is that the body overseeing HIA’s such as the health department likely, should develop minimum standards for HIA’s that also include health equity and a justice perspective,” she said.
Henry Cole, a Patuxent Riverkeeper board of directors member, brought up many environmental concerns regarding the use of clean energy and the preservation of farmland and watersheds.
“I would like to see a provision that says no more fossil fuel power plants in Prince George’s County,” he said. “It’s already inundated with them, and we’re already failing to meet the air quality standard for ozone. Enough.”
One of the points that Martha Wells, a representative from University Park, brought up was the level of municipal involvement in the rewrite process and asked that they be given more opportunities to comment.
“They seem to be limited, and we would like to be sure that they get acknowledged and included with the right to comment be a part of the process,” she said.”
The council will have one more session dedicated to public comments on July 17 at 2:30 p.m. and will continue to work on the rewrite sitting as Committee of the Whole through the rest of the month. Final action on the legislation will take place in October, and if the legislation is approved, there will be an 18-month countywide map amendment process to implement the zones in the new zoning ordinance.