Residents decry zoning changes before vote
Groups implore County Council not to approve plan amendments
Bearing homemade signs displaying messages including "Stop Zoning Madness," more than 50 Prince George's County residents in red shirts crowded an Upper Marlboro courtyard this afternoon to protest commercial redevelopment to be voted on by the County Council later today.
Over a microphone outside of the County Administration Building, Accokeek and Clinton residents chanted about the need for smart growth and asked the council for a public hearing at the 2 p.m. meeting following their rally. The council was holding a work session, which is open to the public but not open to public comment. As of late Wednesday afternoon, it was still unclear if residents would be allowed to speak at the meeting.
"Keep the rural tier rural!" some residents yelled, along with "What do we want? Smart growth! When do we want it? Now!"
Hoping to come to a compromise, residents aimed to discuss rezoning that would allow for the construction of homes and commercial space at Hyde Field Airport in Clinton and a strip mall in Accokeek.
During a July 20 work session, County Council Chairwoman Marilynn Bland (D-Dist. 9) of Clinton had introduced both projects as amendments to the Subregion 5 Master Plan, a proposed long-term guide for development in south county.
Rally organizer Rhonda Hanson of Accokeek said last week she and her neighbors were content with the county Planning Board's completed Subregion 5 Master Plan before amendments were introduced.
Michael Hethmon, a spokesman for the group Friends of Croom, echoed Hanson's remarks Wednesday, calling the amendments "out-of-the-blue and last-minute."
Hethmon said residents had worked carefully with the Planning Board over the last few years revising the master plan to be beneficial both for the county and residents.
The amendments have been heavily contested. At meetings held Aug. 13 in Clinton and Aug. 28 in Accokeek, more than 250 residents came out to protest the zoning changes.
Pat O'Neal, president of the Windbrook Area Citizens Association, spoke out Wednesday against the planned 2,000 homes and commercial and office space to be constructed at the ailing airport.
O'Neal said traffic in the area is already frustrating and development would further burden existing roads and intersections.
Mel Franklin of Upper Marlboro, who also expressed concern for the area's stressed infrastructure, said additional residents would tax police and fire services, as well as response times.
Franklin, a candidate for the 2010 District 9 County Council seat, said he hoped to hear an explanation from Bland and other council members Wednesday afternoon as to how the rezoning could be beneficial.
Rally attendees fighting against the Accokeek rezoning said Wednesday a strip mall is the last thing they want.
Bill Robinson, president of the Greater Accokeek Civic Association, said vacant storefronts are a problem at the town's two existing strip malls and a third mall would tear business away from the declining malls.
Delegate James Proctor (D-Dist. 27A) of Accokeek said the amendments are just another example of council overlooking south county.
"It's not just the airport, or the strip mall," Proctor said at the rally. "It's a total picture of disrespect for south county."
E-mail Megan McKeever at firstname.lastname@example.org.