Legal ruling pending in Prince George's County master plan lawsuit
Judge to decide this month on fate of contested development plans
Legal filings continue to mount awaiting a Prince George's County Circuit Court judge's decision scheduled for later this month on whether to overturn the subregion 5 and 6 master plans.
The case stems from the Prince George's County District Council's 6-3 approval Sept. 9 of amended master plans that rezone thousands of acres of land for commercial use in subregions 5 and 6, which cover the southern and eastern portions of the county. The County Council sits as the District Council in land use and zoning decisions.
The Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Communities Council Inc. filed a lawsuit in October against the District Council, alleging it violated sections of the Maryland Public Ethics Law by approving the plans without filing campaign contribution disclosures. The suit is an attempt to overturn the master plans because of the group's fear the changes will spur overdevelopment and burden roads and resources in the southeastern part of the county.
Judge Michelle D. Hotten will make a ruling in the case July 26.
The AMP Creeks Council and District Council have waged a lengthy legal battle for the fate of the master plans since November, with legal filings continuing to intensify throughout the spring. In March and May, attorneys for the District Council unsuccessfully tried to challenge the residency of members of the AMP Creeks Council and other residents who filed suits against the master plans.
In court documents filed March 8, Steven Gilbert, an attorney for the District Council, contends that "none of the petitioner citizens or organizations ... Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Creeks Communities Council and Greater Baden Aquasco Citizens Association live or do business close enough to property rezoned in the Subregion 5 SMA [Sectional Map Amendment] or the Subregion 6 petitioners SMA to be aggrieved.'"
Requests for comment from Gilbert through a county spokeswoman were declined.
But J. Carroll Holzer, attorney for the AMP Creeks Council, contends that the District Council tried to "threaten and intimidate" residents by questioning if they live in the county. Gilbert, he said, submitted affidavits to the courts requesting that members of the AMP Creeks Council and Greater Baden Aquasco Citizens Association answer questions about any criminal history and tax liens against their property.
"The Motion is but the latest in a series of repetitive attempts by Respondent District Council to silence the Petitioners in the absence of Court-ordered discovery. Twice this Court has refused to go along with this strategy," Holzer wrote in a May 26 rebuttal to strike down a response to Gilbert's request.
In an interview, Holzer said it is not uncommon for the county to attack the residency of petitioners filing a suit.
"That's the way Prince George's County handles all protestors," he said. "They try to knock people out on a technicality."
The petitions stem from revisions put forth in July 2009 by then-Council Chairwoman Marilynn Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton, who will not seek reelection to the council in November due to term limits, to allow for the construction of a strip mall in Accokeek and the rezoning of Hyde Field Airport in Clinton for 2,000 residential units, as well as retail and office space.
Last summer, residents protested outside the County Council building against the amendments. Residents spent years battling with developers and the county's Planning Board, urging them to not recommend rezoning in Subregion 5.
Holzer said the AMP Creeks Council is prepared to appeal any adverse ruling to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Group president Kelly Canavan said members remain hopeful a decision will be reached in their favor. "We are just really waiting for [the judge] to do something," she said.