A portion of the new 43 zones in Prince George's County slated to go into effect in April. (Courtesy of Prince George's County)
A portion of the new 43 zones in Prince George's County slated to go into effect in April. (Courtesy of Prince George's County)

After seven years of public hearings, editing thousands of documents and arranging boundary lines, the Prince George’s County Council unanimously approved a new zoning and subdivision ordinance slated to go into effect April 1.

The vote marked the last step for Prince George’s to overhaul a more than 50-year-old zoning ordinance which officials said limited development, incorporated out-of-date language and made the zoning process much easier.

County Council made the vote Monday, Nov. 29 while serving as the District Council to assess land use and zoning matters.

Besides council and planning staff, Council members Todd Turner and Dannielle Glaros received credit in leading the effort to approve a “countywide map amendment” to decrease zones from 73 to 43 and consolidate various uses from 1,200 to 250, officially.

Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie and Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park will complete their second, four-year terms in December 2022.

“As the community believes in the importance of us having a modern-day ordinance that is user-friendly and provides community input, it’s a proud moment,” Turner said. “This is a major achievement and we can move forward to make sure it’s implemented the way that we want.”

Glaros asked if the planning department would be ready to accept applicants on the first day the zoning ordinance becomes law.

“The answer to that is an emphatic, ‘yes,’” said Derick Berlage, the county’s deputy planning director. “The planning department is ready to work with the new ordinance.”

If a property owner submits a zoning proposal prior to April 1, it would need to be reviewed by planners and then by the zoning hearing examiner. That means new proposals will not be accepted for review before the District Council until after the new zoning ordinance goes into effect.

Before the council could officially grant final approval, it needed to vote on 10 zoning requests from municipal officials that included seven from the city of Greenbelt. Council unanimously approved recommendations from the county’s planning board on eight of the 10 requests.

Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly voted in favor of the municipalities for two of the zoning requests. One included the town of Bladensburg to label nearly 41 acres as “commercial neighborhood” versus “commercial service” and slightly more than an acre in Greenbelt as “agricultural and preventions” as opposed to the planning board’s recommendation of “residential, rural.”

County officials began the zoning rewrite in 2014 and approved a new ordinance in October 2018 to make the obsolete language easier to understand, eliminate dozens of zoning districts and make the process more streamlined.

The process continued in 2019 with in-person and virtual public hearings to combine certain zoning districts such as “industrial, employment” which incorporates four of the previous designations. Officials exchanged terms of certain zones from “heavy industrial” to “industrial, heavy” and “rural residential” to “residential, rural.”

The $534 million University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, near the Largo Town Center Metro station, would be labeled “regional transit-oriented, high intensity.” This zoning designation focuses on transit centers anchored by Metrorail stations with various businesses and apartments and/or condominiums.

“A lot of people said it couldn’t get done,” said council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro. “It took effort over many years to get us to a place where in April, we will have a new transit-oriented focus and a thoughtful zoning code that looks at Prince George’s County’s 500 square miles. That is a yeoman’s task.”

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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