Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Residents, Merchants Make the Case for Zoning Changes in Prince George’s

Brandon Bellamy believes a proposed zoning change at Hampton Park in Capitol Heights near Interstate 95 would affect current construction of an office building slated to include Prince George’s County’s Office of Aging.

Bellamy, chief executive officer for Velocity Companies in Greenbelt that helped redevelop the mall, said the industrial employment designation doesn’t fit with the land currently zoned for mixed-use transportation. (The property includes an IHOP, Dunkin Donuts and Home Depot.)

However, he said the mall could be rezoned under the new “commercial, general office” designation. A summary shows that the zone which he recommends “provides for a broad and diverse range of retail, business, civic and mixed-use development at major intersections and other highly-visible and accessible locations.”

“This is the zone that is most similar to the zone we have right now and is most reflective of the existing, proposed development,” Bellamy said during a more than four-hour public hearing on Monday, Sept. 13.

The virtual hearing with the county’s planning board and District Council allowed comments Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 14 on the “countywide map amendment.” The hearings count as part of the final step for members of the County Council, which sits as the District Council on land use and zoning matters, to possibly approve new maps and zoning districts by November.

“We know it will be a benefit to the development of Prince George’s County,” Councilmember Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie said before Monday’s hearing. 

“Given the time, the effort and  the money that’s been spent on this process, it’s nice to say that we are getting close but until we say that it’s done, I’m not counting any victories,” he said. 

County officials began the zoning revisions process 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 much smoother.

The process continued in 2019 to decrease zones from 73 to 43 https://bit.ly/3huOOtU and to consolidate the acceptable uses from 1,200 to 250.

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.”

Several residents said a loophole in a state law amended at https://bit.ly/2Wn6gZP could allow developers to grandfather projects before the map amendment becomes approved. In addition, a landowner could seek to add more density on property and possibly sidestep intense public scrutiny.

A record of a public hearing between the District Council and planning board will remain open for 15 days, according to the county’s zoning ordinance.

“Requests for zoning changes outside the county map amendment process should undergo the same scrutiny by the planning board, District Council and the public that are normally required,” said Janet Gingold, a member of the county’s Sierra Club. “We strongly urge you to rebuild public trust in the land-use decision-making process by holding yourselves and each other accountable.”

However, one portion of the state law indicates that the county’s planning board and council “may not approve any request made by or on behalf of any person for zone intensification that differs substantially from the applicable zoning category or classification…” from new zones adopted in July 2019.

Turner said the council may change zoning if “a clear error” exists, like residential property accidentally marked on county records as commercial.

“As much as we have gone through this process, nothing is perfect,” Turner said. 

For more information on the zoning and subdivision plan, go to https://bit.ly/3k9lB9K. Residents and business owners have until Sept. 29 to submit written comments on the map amendment.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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