South county landowners oppose zoning change
Subregion 5 master plan would preserve rural character, planners say
Angry landowners spoke out March 11 against a proposal to change zoning in southern Prince George's County, which they said would dramatically decrease their profits and possibly force them into bankruptcy.
At an open house to allow the public to review the preliminary Subregion 5 master plan, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission provided residents a copy of the 264-page document. The proposed plan would replace a 1993 version and help guide long-term development in the 74-square-mile region on the south and southwest borders of the county.
The plan breaks the area into three main communities, allowing large areas surrounding Accokeek and Brandywine to remain rural, while spurring economic development along the Route 5 corridor in Clinton and Brandywine.
Peter Gallerizzo of Accokeek, who owns a large plot of land along Danville Road, hoped to develop that land into a residential neighborhood in the future, he said.
However, Gallerizzo's land sits in a 1,502-acre zone in Accokeek currently tagged Residential Agriculture, or R-A, and the preliminary plan would change the zone to Open Space, or O-S. The zoning change, which residents have dubbed "down-zoning," would allow one house to be built per five acres, as opposed to the current R-A zone, which allows a house to be built every two acres.
Most other regions in the rural tier area are already zoned as open space, said Wendy Irminger, the project leader for Subregion 5 with M-NCPPC in Prince George's County, adding that the change from R-A to O-S would make zoning more consistent in the tier.
According to the preliminary plan, the zone is currently agricultural and has some single family homes. Because most of the land in the rural tier is zoned open space and reserved open space, this re-zoning would make zoning consistent with the rest of the county and would allow for "protection of large amounts of land for woodland, wildlife habitat, recreation and agricultural pursuits and preservation of the rural character," the plan states.
Gallerizzo said the zoning change could cost many landowners at least 60 percent of their property values, when plot-size minimums are increased to five acres.
"This is a serious issue to owners of R-A land," he said. "It would destroy a lot of potential home sites."
Bill Reimer, who owns property in Accokeek, said it's unfair for landowners not to receive compensation when land is being rezoned, citing the Supreme Court case of Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council. The 1992 ruling stated that landowners should be compensated if they are deprived of economically beneficial use of their land.
Irminger said R-A landowners who are re-zoned to O-S will not receive a tax credit or compensation.
"Zoning is an authority given to the local government," she said. "Jurisdictions do this all the time."
Reimer owns land in the area to be rezoned, which abuts Charles County and is bordered by Marshall Hall Road to the north, and said he along with fellow landowner Gary Rubino of Laurel will speak March 31 at the Subregion 5 public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. in the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.
Both men said they had considered retaining attorneys to represent them at the upcoming hearing and had hoped to round up other landowners to speak.
Many residents aren't aware of the proposed changes and won't be informed until it's too late, Rubino said.
The joint hearing with the Prince George's County Council, sitting as the District Council, and the Planning Board will be an opportunity for oral comment, and written comments can be sent in through April.
The Planning Board will then hold a work session to decide if it wants to adopt the plans or make changes before adopting it.
The council may hold a second public hearing, allowing residents to comment on amendments made to the plan, Irminger said, before approval.
E-mail Megan McKeever at firstname.lastname@example.org.