A rendering of a six-story building (left) at the Towne Square Federal Center slated to open in two years (Courtesy of L.A. Bolden Co.)
A rendering of a six-story building (left) at the Towne Square Federal Center slated to open in two years (Courtesy of L.A. Bolden Co.)

Prince George’s County residents have until Dec. 15 to offer their viewpoints to revise a more than 50-year-old zoning ordinance before County Council begins to review it early next year.

An update of the draft document decreases zoning districts from 73 to 44, zoning uses from 1,200 to 229 and rewrites some the rules and regulations into “plain English.”

“Most of it’s aimed at finding ways to simplify and make the outcomes of the zoning and subdivision process more transparent to the public and more predictable for the building community,” Don Elliott, director of Clarion Associates based in Denver and consulting working on the zoning plan, said during an interview.

The zoning rules squished into a four-inch binder currently include hundreds of amendments which have been added over decades. For instance, a section under District Council had at least 11 amendments created in the past 30 years.

One proposal in the works to incorporate more community input would require a developer to hold a pre-meeting before applications are submitted and document all feedback.

Krystal Oriadha of Capitol Heights questioned if this would carry weight for a developer’s plan during a discussion on the zoning rewrite proposal Thursday, Oct. 26 in Landover.

Chad Williams, a master planner in the county’s Planning Department, said it couldn’t be enforced because an application wouldn’t have been formally submitted.

When asked after the discussion why a county employee couldn’t serve as an intermediary to record all comments, he said there’s a limited number of resources in terms of employees and time.

“We haven’t got to that level of refining it, yet,” he said. “It’s still being reviewed.”

A major addition to the boost new development continues the county’s push for transit-oriented development, or construction of residential and commercial properties near the county’s 15 Metro stations, still serves a high priority to attract.

One particular type of housing that could be permitted in several zoning districts will be for seniors.

Derick Berlage, chief of the county’s Planning Division and project manager for the zoning rewrite, said senior-citizen apartments would be permitted near Metro stations, commercial and light industrial zones.

“It is something that we need a lot of in Prince George’s,” he said.

Two senior developments estimated at $57 million for those 62 and older are scheduled to open in the next two years.

Lisa Bolden, who runs L.A. Bolden Co., a real estate development firm in northwest D.C., has worked alongside with the principal developer, Mission First Housing Group of Baltimore, to construct nearly 260 units in the Suitland community, an area with the highest number of seniors in Prince George’s.

Construction has begun on a five-acre tract along St. Barnabas Road to build 122 one-bedroom units averaging $970 per month. Bolden said the complex plans to open October 2018.

A six-story senior building plans to open in two years at Silver Hill and Suitland roads as part of the $360 million Towne Square Federal Center with townhouses, single-family homes and businesses near the U.S. Census Bureau. Bolden said some of the senior amenities include a cyber café, yoga garden, a 24-hour fitness center and a room for a visiting physician and nurses.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the entire development is scheduled to take place Nov. 16.

“When it comes to having age-restricted communities, there is a demand — period,” Bolden said. “Senior housing is going to be one of the biggest housing industries over the next few decades.”

To submit comments on the zoning rewrite, go to https://pgplanning.civicomment.org or call 301-952-4944.

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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