Demonstrators protest rezoning at the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland. (WI photo)
Demonstrators protest rezoning at the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland. (WI photo)

In July, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals called for a halt to rezoning efforts that would add over 500 townhomes and 100 single-family homes in the space currently occupied by the Bowie Freeway Airport, after concluding that the rezoning “unlawfully violates the uniformity requirement and therefore is illegal and unenforceable.” 

Following community opposition voiced during a town hall meeting, former Prince George’s Councilman Derrick Leon Davis withdrew legislation to add a 300-unit apartment building and retail development across from the Cameron Grove Resort Center. 

Nonetheless, both rezoning efforts have since moved forward. A little-known process by the County Council to amend the Bowie, Mitchellville and Vicinity Master Plan would be employed to green light developments on Bowie Freeway Airport and near Cameron Grove, along with hundreds of townhomes at Frank’s Tree Nursery. 

By altering the Master Plan, the changes have effectively been grandfathered into future zoning initiatives, allowing the proposed rezoning to proceed despite complaints from the Planning Board which earlier asserted described the move as “inconsistent with the overall approach toward growth management.”

The surrounding areas along Annapolis and Enterprise Road, primarily single-family homes and zoned as rural, have experienced significant traffic increases in recent years. In addition, newer developments, such as Fairwood and Vista Gardens, have substantially reduced the number of trees in surrounding areas, leading to higher temperatures and more humidity. 

Zoning powers in Prince George’s County remain held by the County Council, excluding in the City of Laurel, and many have pointed to alleged ties between campaign donations and new developments.

During a rally on August 11, outside the Wayne Curry Administration Building, community advocates including Bowie resident Michael Bridges, secured a future meeting to discuss zoning with Councilman At Large Calvin Hawkins. 

Hawkins noted that “he was more sensitive to this issue, as many residents had raised the issue with him during his recent re-election campaign. According to organizers, the main goal of the meeting with Hawkins was to delay a meeting of the County Council to allow more time for the Planning Board’s findings to be reviewed. 

During the meeting, held on August 24, community advocates cited impact on traffic, pedestrian safety, emergency response and overcrowded schools as reasons to oppose the development plans. 

“Most important, the community is not made aware of such drastic changes to their neighborhoods with limited notification at Frank’s Nursery,” said Milly Hall, who serves as the leader for the Concerned Citizens for District 4 and Surrounding Areas. 

Carol Boyer, secretary of the Concerned Citizens group, said the organization had been promised an update regarding their request to move the zoning hearing to a later date – a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. 

Two Bowie planning meetings have been slated for Sept. 13 and 19 with the County Council’s zoning hearing scheduled for September 27. 

After the Aug. 24 meeting, Hawkins introduced a bill, CB-091, that would require a ⅔ vote of the County Council to enact zoning map amendment changes. 

Hall said the proposed legislation would “derail the incoming council members, who were mostly voted in because of their community support, from having a majority vote” on zoning matters. She also questioned why the Council, with 5 of the current 11 members not returning, had opted to change the voting structure of the County Council.

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