FOREST HEIGHTS — The Town of Forest Heights recently had its plan to more than double the limits of their town by the annexation of nearby land approved and finalized by the courts.
The Forest Heights town government decided the annexation would be best for the town because of the restrictions the current size gave them in terms of development and land use. It grows the small town of 2,517 people to 2.6 times its current geographic size.
It had been landlocked in the sense that all of the current lands the town owns has been built out with primarily single-family residential properties and very little commercial, business or other land uses. Aside from the fact of tax base being mostly dependent on single-family land use, there was no way to further develop the town, the tax base or increase amenities for the citizens of Forest Heights with the current size. officials say.
“This annexation allows us to enhance the quality of life by expanding land uses and amenities that fall within our corporate limits, as well as explore opportunities for economic and other development,” said Town Administrator Linwood Robinson.
The process began in 2016 when the town initially sought the annexation. Forest Heights won a recent decision in the Court of Appeals of Maryland in June of 2019 which finalized the annexation.
However, this is not the first time the town has expanded its borders, Robinson said. Throughout its history, Forest Heights has been through seven annexations.
According to the town, the growth provides opportunities for the inclusion of other amenities, land uses and economic development possibilities for Forest Heights.
It also provides the town with a voice in the development process or improvement of the corporate lands contained within the annexed properties.
The new land that the town has acquired is located between the Washington, D.C. boundary, the Anacostia Freeway (I-295) and the Capital Beltway (I-495 and I-95), according to town documents. It is comprised of about 446.88 acres of land.
It includes land along the southern boundary of the town’s corporate limits such as land along Oxon Hill Road, part of which is occupied by John Hanson Montessori School and the Oxon Hill Methodist Church; land that is south of the Potomac Business Park which includes Southlawn Local Park and Oxon Hill High School; and land along Oxon Hill Road which contains Oxon Hill Manor and the Potomac Vista Recreation Area.
Although Forest Heights is bringing new land into its borders, much of the area that was annexed includes parks, schools and more that are privately owned by entities such as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s County Public Schools and others.
“All the land is tax-exempt property,” Robinson said. “The land is within our corporate limits but not entirely controlled or owned by our town.”
According to Robinson, the town held several public hearings on the annexation and based on the feedback the town administration received, most of the residents in Forest Heights are in support of this recent annexation.
The prospective growth and future opportunities represent progress for the town and its residents.
As for the end goal, the town can either continue its expansion in the future by annexing more land or stopping here and building on what it already has. Both options are currently on the table, Robinson said.
“This annexation opens these possibilities to us. Our Forest Heights future plan contemplates many projects and other potential annexation.”
Forest Heights is not the only town looking to expand its borders. The Town of Upper Marlboro’s Board of Town Commissioners recently introduced a resolution that would annex land for the small town as well.
In what will be the first time the town has grown in its over 300-year history, the expansion of the town’s limits will include the nearby Showplace Arena properties.
According to the town, the annexation of the Show Place Arena properties will be just the first phase of the Town of Upper Marlboro’s annexation plan that will expand the town limits to bring in additional commercial and residential properties into the town, as well as expand the town services to the properties and residents of Greater Upper Marlboro.
The Town of Upper Marlboro will have a public hearing on the proposed resolution on Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Upper Marlboro Town Hall.