Prince George's County officials hope to shrink this nearly four-inch zoning ordinance binder with more 1,200 pages by next year. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County officials hope to shrink this nearly four-inch zoning ordinance binder with more 1,200 pages by next year. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

For the past year and a half, Prince George’s County’s Planning Department has dedicated five planners to work strictly on helping to rewrite the decades-old zoning and subdivision ordinance.

Although the first public meeting was held more than three years ago, there’s still another year before a new zoning code is approved. Residents have another opportunity to present verbal and written comments at a town hall session Monday, July 17 at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro.

“Sometimes businesses are reluctant to come here … going through the arduous process. It will also give all the stakeholders a say,” said planning board Chairwoman Elizabeth Hewlett. “We’re really excited because it’s a wonderful opportunity for Prince George’s County and Prince Georgians.”

Hundreds of amendments have been added for decades in the nearly four-inch zoning ordinance binder, which officials have said makes it cumbersome for people to understand.

For instance, a section under District Council had at least 11 amendments created in the last three decades. Prince George’s County Council sits as District Council when it discusses and reviews planning and zoning matters.

Some written and verbal comments earlier this year expressed opposing views on the District Council’s role to select and review certain projects.

According to documents posted online at http://zoningpgc.pgplanning.com, one comment posted states the council “is very inconsistent” when it chooses a particular project to review. Another comment from Progressive Maryland supports the council’s ability to review a case because it’s difficult for a property owner to challenge a case under state law.

The county’s consultant, Clarion Associates of Denver, wrote council’s role to evaluate some cases “does not provide a consistent and predictable outcome for either the public or the development community. This, is turn, makes investing in the County less desirable since the single-most important thing developers indicate they look for is predictability.”

One major part of the zoning ordinance that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has championed for several years is transit-oriented development, or construction of residential and commercial properties near the county’s 15 Metro stations.

Derick Berlage, chief of the county’s Planning Division and project manager for the zoning rewrite, said the current ordinance doesn’t permit for diverse development around Metro stations. He said work has been done piecemeal that makes it hard to navigate and incorporate.

The area at Metro stations are proposed as “Activity Center” zones described in the subdivision regulations document in May to boost economic development and more convenient to walk, bike and use transit.

“Basically, we want to create a state-of-the-art best practices to get transit-oriented development that you see throughout the D.C. region,” Berlage said. “D.C. has done it recently. Montgomery County has done it. We want to compete and we need the zoning code to help us do that.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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