CSTCA Special Meeting: Saturday March 28, 11am-1pm on Zoning Rewrite

Chad Williams, program manager for the county’s Zoning Rewrite, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), will be our guest speaker at a special CSTCA meeting, March 28, 2015 from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at the Christian Science Society-Hyattsville, 8300 Adelphi Road. The meeting is for the purpose of explaining the Evaluation and Recommendations Report and answering the questions we have submitted so far (See attached for these questions.)

The report is located at:
http://zoningpgc.pgplanning.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/PGC-ERR-Report-with-Memo-12-8-2014.pdf

Prince George’s County is undergoing a major rewrite of its zoning laws, which will affect where you are living and working for decades to come. Recommendations by M-NCPPC’s consultants have been posted to their website in a 360+ page report. They are engaging in ‘listening’ sessions throughout the county, explaining what’s in the report and trying to clarify questions being raised as a result.

A core team of CSTCA members have reviewed key sections of the report and found many questions. The overarching one is: How are regular citizens going to protect the character of their neighborhoods, keeping green space and not allowing higher density or inappropriate development, if the new zoning laws—soon to be drafted—reflect the emphasis of the consultant’s report?
There are major issues with the Zoning Rewrite report that we found so far:
1. The two major stated report goals–reducing risk for developers and investors, and implementing the County’s Plan 2035–assume that this will be a benefit for everyone in the County. To quote from page viii of the Preface: “This report begins a process of change that can make Prince George’s County better for everyone.” This is not really true.

2. For example, page V24 devotes only a ¼ of a page to “Open Space” which tips the hand of what the real purpose of this rewrite. There is no discussion of how to protect “Open Space” anywhere, much less inside the Beltway, where it is most in need of protection and acquisition. Further, simply protecting neighborhoods from being shaded out by high rise buildings does not ensure protection of the integrity, character and property values of nearby neighborhoods.

3. There are additional concerns about the recommendations on changing the approval processes for what get built regardless of existing zoning going forward. The Zoning Hearing Examiner is appointed by the County Council for 5 year, renewable terms and is thus subject to political pressure from the Council. If the Council is taken out of the appeal process, the process will not be made non-political as the proposal suggests, but removes a layer of any influence the citizens may have in outcomes through their elected officials, especially given the big bucks put into elections by development interests in both Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.
As an overview, the Zoning Rewrite report recommends:
• Reducing the number of zones—in the name of simplification, allowing for higher density.
o Resulting in new definitions for each zones, affecting
–what will be allowed to be built and the standards to which it must be built,
such commercial, mixed-use (business and residential), or residential: single family homes, townhouses, or apartment buildings.
–the approval process for plans and buildings
• The creation of special zones, which allow building to be simply a result of negotiations between developers and M-NCPPC’s Planning Department.
• Reduction of County Council and citizen influence on development decisions.

CSTCA Zoning Rewrite Questions for March 28 Meeting w Park and Planning

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