The Prince George's County Council holds its annual gavel exchange session on Dec. 3. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
The Prince George's County Council holds its annual gavel exchange session on Dec. 3. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

The Prince George’s County Council chose to keep Todd Turner as chair for a second straight year, but decided to elect a new second-in-command.

At-Large Councilman Calvin S. Hawkins II also received unanimous approval during the council’s annual gavel exchange session Tuesday to serve as vice chair in just his second year on the 11-member council.

“I learned the importance of working together and understanding that at the end of the day, if you don’t have a minimum of six votes, you can’t move your legislative agenda,” Hawkins said at a press conference after the meeting in Upper Marlboro. “It’s important to continue to work together to make this county better than we found it.”

Councilwoman Deni Taveras said she nominated Hawkins because of his constant enthusiasm and “being dedicated to his community.” In addition, she wanted to give him a chance to gain experience in a leadership position.

One of the biggest changes for this year’s council was for the at-large seats, which haven’t been utilized in Prince George’s since 1982.

The council approved dozens of bills this year, including an overhaul of the county’s animal control ordinance.

Animal owners who attack people face criminal fines, which became approved a month after the council rejected an amendment to remove a ban on pit bulls.

According to new ordinance, a person who fails to “surrender an animal for impoundment upon demand by an animal control officer or law enforcement officer” could face a fine up to $500.

Another piece of legislation allows the installation of small fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless technology facilities on private property.

Those who operate and install these wireless operations must adhere to several requirements:

• Cannot be built within 250 feet of an elementary or secondary school.
• Cannot be built within 150 feet of another wireless facility controlled by the same owner.
• Must be a minimum of 30 feet from a residential dwelling.

When the council reconvenes for its next session Jan. 7, it has two main agenda items it plans to focus on for next year: zoning and housing.

The council aims to continue the process on a countywide map amendment to implement zones from the zoning and subdivision ordinance approved October 2018. The zoning districts decreased from 73 to 43 and consolidated the uses from 1,200 to 250.

Zoning officials have said this allows for property owners to not only read and understand the zoning laws, but also bring the codes to more 21st-century standards.

The council also amended the Fair Housing Act to include discrimination based on a person’s immigration or citizenship status and those with disabilities. The county’s Housing Opportunity for All will continue to seek strategies on providing affordable housing in the jurisdiction that collects some of the highest property taxes in Maryland.

During the press conference at the county administration building, council members in attendance were asked what they would improve in terms of council dynamics, especially with six new members this year.

“More transparency and more information sharing,” said Councilwoman Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly.

To summarize the council’s work this year, Turner used some sports analogies.

“Much like the celebrated World Series [champion Washington] Nationals and the WNBA champion [Washington] Mystics teams this year, this council will lead together and keep scoring the championship wins for Prince George’s County,” he said.

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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