URGENT: Calls Needed in Prince George’s County!

Calls are needed to stop a bad bill before it has a chance to move out of committee! Per fellow blogger and Prince George’s County resident Bradley Heard:

The Prince George’s County Council is asking the local county delegation of the Maryland House of Delegates to pass a bill that would allow the council to resume its destructive practice of interfering with the county Planning Board’s decisions on individual development projects. A subcommittee is holding a hearing on the bill today, February 12, at 4:00 pm in Annapolis, to consider the bill and possibly move it forward for the full delegation’s consideration.

This bill seeks to overturn a recent unanimous decision by Maryland’s highest court, which held that the County Council is only permitted to overturn Planning Board decisions if they lack evidentiary support or are arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise illegal.

The court held that the Planning Board—part of a bi-county planning and zoning agency formally known as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC)—has the legal authority and responsibility to render final decisions on individual development projects. The County Council, on the other hand, is responsible for appointing the Planning Board members and setting the general zoning and land use regulations that the Planning Board must interpret and apply.

Prince George’s County Council, 2015

Prior to the court’s decision, the County Council would routinely use a sketchy “call-up” procedure to review Planning Board decisions, whether there had been any complaints or issues at all. As Bradley points out, the only people who benefit from this practice are the Council members themselves:

Whatever the reasons for its use, the “call-up” procedure renders the county’s development review process arbitrary, uncertain, and usually more expensive—which is the exact opposite of what should be happening if the county wants to attract quality development, particularly around its Metro stations. Many respected developers have refused to consider development opportunities in Prince George’s County because they don’t want to be subjected to the political whims of individual council members. And why would they, when they can just go to the adjoining county and have a much more certain understanding of how a development application will be processed?

The only people who win under the old “call-up” regime are the greedy and power-hungry County Council members, who unfortunately cannot seem to look beyond themselves and make decisions that are in the best interests of moving Prince George’s County forward. Even if the council were motivated solely by a desire to respond to constituents’ concerns about particular developments (which is totally not the case), it’s still a bad idea to reinstate the “call-up” procedure, because of the politicization and arbitrariness it brings to the development process.

If council members really want to help out constituents and developers alike, they should focus on making the zoning rules clearer, simpler, and easier for the Planning Board and the county permitting office to administer. (This, by the way, is the goal of the Zoning Rewrite Project that M-NCPPC is currently engaged in.)

The hearing is supposed to take place at 4pm today, February 2, 2016.  Please contact the bi-county committee members to stop this bill before it gets anywhere!

Bi-county committee Chairman is Del. Michael Vaughn. You can email him at [email protected], or call his office at (410) 841-3691 or (301) 858-3691. The other Bi-County Committee members are:

Delegate Angela Angel, (410) 841-3707, (301) 858-3707, [email protected]

Delegate Erek Barron, (410) 841-3692, (301) 858-3692, [email protected]

Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines, (410) 841-3058, (301) 858-3058, [email protected]

Delegate Tony Knotts, (410) 841-3212, (301) 858-3212, [email protected]

Delegate Carlo Sanchez, (410) 841-3340, (301) 858-3340, [email protected]

Delegate Kris Valderrama, (410) 841-3210, (301) 858-3210, [email protected]

Delegate Jay Walker, (410) 841-3581, (301) 858-3581, [email protected]

You can find contact information for them all, as well as the rest of the Prince George’s County delegation here. Please contact all of them ASAP and tell them to reject Local Bill No. PG/MC 111-16 (HB 1025).

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