Land use bill shot down in committee
Favorable vote Friday could resurrect it
A proposed bill that would give Prince George's County municipalities the authority to make land use decisions was shot down Wednesday in a subcommittee meeting of the Prince George's House Delegation in Annapolis.
However, bill PG/MC 108-09 will be heard once more before the entire Prince George's Delegation on Friday. If 12 of 23 members support the bill, it will be resurrected for further discussion.
Bi-County Subcommittee members voted 4-2 against the bill. Both Dels. Michael L. Vaughn (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville and Veronica L. Turner (D-Dist. 26) of Camp Springs said they did not know whether all the municipalities they represented supported the bill and therefore chose to vote against it. Dels. Gerron S. Levi (D-Dist. 23A) of Woodmore and Anne Healey (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville voted for the bill.
"To say that they hadn't heard from [municipalities], I just don't agree with that," said Micah Watson, president of The Prince George's Municipal Association, which represents all 27 municipalities in the county and formally supported the bill.
Each year the PGMA's legislative group decides which bill to support and forwards that information on to municipalities, Watson said. If municipalities opposed the bill, they had time to make their positions known, he said.
Sponsored by Sen. Douglas J. J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie and Dels. Marvin E. Holmes Jr. (D-Dist. 23B) of Kettering, James W. Hubbard (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie and Levi, the bill would grant municipalities the power to make final decisions on matters such as design and parking standards, landscaping requirements, minor changes to approved special exceptions in design plans and some detailed site plans.
Large municipalities such as Bowie, College Park and Greenbelt support the bill because it would give them a say over developments planned within their municipal limits. Currently, municipal governments can only rule on small matters like zoning variances and departures from design standards. For larger projects, they can present development recommendations to the County Council, which ultimately makes the final decision.
Bowie officials were upset with the decision.
"Your position sucks," Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said after the vote to lobbyists representing the County Council and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which both opposed the bill.
Bowie has sought land use authority since 2005 when the Maryland General Assembly voted to allow the Prince George's County Council to grant municipalities planning authority. Although the city has drafted legislation and reached out to council members several times to pursue planning authority, the county has never relinquished any authority, said Bowie City Manager David Deutsch.
While the M-NCPPC believes municipalities have the planning expertise to design and guide developments, planners want unity in design standards across the county, said Adrian Gardner, general counsel for the organization.
"[We don't want] municipalities adopting different standards across the street from one another," he said.
The County Council also opposed the bill on the basis that it could encourage piecemeal development.
"The piecemeal zoning resulting in less than comprehensive regulation and the potential for eroding the authority provided to the district council are areas of concern," wrote County Council Chairwoman Marilynn Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton in a letter to the delegation.
The proposed bill does not require municipalities to take on planning authority or allow them to alter zoning laws.
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