UPPER MARLBORO — Following a public hearing, the Town of Upper Marlboro Board of Commissioners approved the annexation of nearby land, which includes the Show Place Arena properties, on Aug. 27.
The annexation of five parcels of 109 acres of land adjacent to the town will be the town’s first annexation in its 300-year history. The Board of Commissioners approved the resolution unanimously.
The annexation will include the Show Place Arena and Equestrian Center properties, parts of MD 4 and MD 717, the Upper Marlboro Community Center, the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District and other lands that are generally located south and east of the town, according to the annexation resolution.
According to Town of Upper Marlboro Attorney Kevin Best, the process of annexation requires the consent of 25% of the owners of the land that will be annexed and the consent of 25% of the qualified voters who live there.
“We have neither in this case,” Best said. “There is no taxable property, and there are no voters so, therefore, no consent required. The town can proceed on its own initiative for annexation.”
Following approval, the annexation becomes effective in 45 days unless the county council requires a referendum to be voted on by the annexed area or the town starts a petition, both of which Best said was unlikely.
While the town charter and laws become effective in the annexed area and the town police department can enforce laws there, the town has no zoning power over it, Best said.
However, the annexation becomes an advantage to the town because it is taxable property. It also puts the town closer to other property that they can annex in the future.
Four people spoke during the public hearing, most of them in support of the annexation. George Leonnig brought to the attention of the commissioners that the annexation could be a disadvantage to the town’s relationship with the county.
“I don’t think it should be any mystery to you that the county really opposes the Forest Heights annexation and would therefore also oppose this annexation,” Leonnig said. “That shouldn’t be a big mystery so that when you do this, you will be opposed, or you should be opposed, by the county. The county realizes they can’t actually oppose you like they did with Forest Heights because they lost the Forest Heights case.”
The county has proposed to remove the historical designations of the Upper Marlboro Primary and High School which the town has been firmly against. Leonnig felt that this was the county’s response to the annexation and that the town “can’t do things like that without getting some kind of pushback.”
“In my opinion, you’re not getting any cost-benefit out of doing this,” Leonnig said. “Why you would even do this is a mystery to me.”
He suggested the town postpone the vote and talk to the county to work out a deal with where they don’t remove the historical designations of the schools.
However, Best pointed out that the facts were different in the Forest Heights case as the town sits next to the National Harbor and the MGM resort. Unlike the Forest Heights annexation, there is no major development near the area that the Town of Upper Marlboro plans to annex.
“I think the county probably would have responded the same way with the property whether we were annexing or not and I think the town may have plans to annex other lands if possible that would be helpful to have in this particular area,” Best said.
Despite the county’s influence, Town Commissioner Linda Pennoyer called the annexation a good thing and said that this is “a step in the right direction” for the town.
“The county is going to do what the county is going to do,” she said. “Don’t anybody ever think that just because we’re nice, they’re going to be nice or if we’re bad they’re going to be bad. Our chief concern, at least in my own opinion, is what is in the best interests of the town.”
Other residents of the town who spoke at the public hearing supported the annexation saying the town should do what they want and not be dictated by the county.
After hearing from the residents, the commissioners decided to go ahead and make a motion to vote on the annexation and all three commissioners were enthusiastic in voting to approve the annexation emphasizing the need to have a seat at the table when it comes to county development.
“We need a little flexing room. We also need a seat at the table when the county starts developing, and they will be developing,” Pennoyer said. “I would rather have the option to be at the table than sitting on the sidelines like we have for many years.”
The annexation will be the first of many for the town as they build upon this first annexation and their hopes to grow the town, Best said.
“The town has plans to annex other properties in the vicinity south of town, east of town,” Best said. “This is just a building block annexation to get things started.
“The town hasn’t annexed anything since it was first incorporated as a municipality in 1870. Most of the towns in the state have done it, most of the towns and the cities in the state have annexed land throughout their existence, but Upper Marlboro has been pretty conservative.”
As for other plans for the town beyond annexation, Town Mayor Wanda Leonard said that is to be determined. Right now, they are focused on doing phases with the annexations and to “go forth with growth.”