WASHINGTON POST: Prince George’s County’s incoming council has launched its new legislative agenda, halting decisions made by the previous council and eliciting concerns about a changing vision for development.
In some of their first moves in office, members of the self-proclaimed “people’s council” last week unwound rules established by former council members for some projects that are already underway. The repeals — targeting text amendments to zoning legislation — will give the public more time to weigh in, supporters say, but dissenting members questioned the pace of change and the potential impact on developers left wondering how to proceed.
The actions, unusual for a council to undertake in a month that new members traditionally use to catch up on complex issues, highlighted competing visions for growth in the county. New council members say they want to see targeted development that area residents support. Some members who sat on the last council see the moves as stifling a more expansive direction from County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who has said that more growth is needed to place Prince George’s on the same playing field as neighboring counties.
At-large member Mel Franklin (D) was the most vocal of objectors last week, admonishing the council for its haste and for signaling that the county is, in his words, “closed for business.”
“This is not the way you should do things,” Franklin said about zoning bills going straight into introduction without a reason or deadline. “You have several new colleagues who are just learning about the zoning ordinance. It’s not a great idea to rush this process when they are still trying to find out where the bathrooms are in this building, much less understand the zoning ordinance.”
The repeals come months after the county finished updating a 50-year-old set of rules governing development, a process that took eight years and $15 million to accomplish. The zoning ordinance went into effect in April.
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Photo: Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin attends a council meeting in 2016. Recently he questioned moves by new council members to change zoning rules, saying, “It’s not a great idea to rush this process when they are still trying to find out where the bathrooms are in this building, much less understand the zoning ordinance.” (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)