Longer public comment period urged for Prince George's zoning rewrite section

Progressive Prince George's and the county Sierra Club group urge extension of comment period from two months to four, citing critical factors affecting community input into neighborhood change and development.

/PM BlogSpace Report/ Prince George’s activist organizations have asked the Prince George’s County Council and its Planning Department to extend the deadline for comments on the crucial Module 3 of the revision of the county’s Zoning Code for two months – from November 1 to December 31.

 The Prince George’s group of the Sierra Club and Progressive Prince George’s, the county chapter of Progressive Maryland, argue that the code rewrite’s third module is the most complex yet and includes critical details on how neighborhoods and affected individuals can get a say in the way development is controlled in and near their homes.

 Yet citizens were given only two months to review the third module when the first two had four-month review periods.

 “It is unfair to the residents of Prince George’s County to give them half as long to consider and comment on what is by far the most significant of Clarion’s proposals,” said the Oct. 20 letter to the County Council from county Sierra Club chair Martha Ainsworth and Jennifer Dwyer, county lead organizer for Progressive Maryland.

 “Clarion” is Clarion Associates, a consultant firm with a major role in the draft rewrite of the Zoning Code for the county.

 The Sierra Club and Progressive Maryland argue specifically that important issues of resident input are embedded in module three and must be closely examined by individuals and groups because it includes “process and administrative rules that cover

  • Notification of development projects
  • Citizens’ ability to comment
  • The time frame for comments, and
  • The ability to appeal decisions of the Planning Board and District Council”

 

Dwyer notes that the Planning Staff has not been entirely clear about how comments would be handled under the present Nov. 1 deadline, suggesting comments received after that date would be included in some way but those submitted before Nov. 1 would get “best consideration” and included in the final Staff draft – but it is not clear that those received later would be included in any document that would reach the Planning Board or County Council.

 Members of the two organizations are being urged to contact their County Council members as well as contact the rewrite’s lead planner on staff, Chad Williams (301-952-3171; ZoningPGC@ppd.mncppc.org) to urge a positive response to the letter and a grant of the extended comment period.

 Many county activists and residents are wary of the revision of the zoning code because the Planning Board, whose members are all political appointees, has been welcoming to projects from the same development and real-estate interests that fatten campaign funds for county elected offices. The work of defending neighborhoods is already an uphill struggle and activists are concerned that the “zoning rewrite” is a cover for more enabling of big-money projects at the expense of existing residential communities.

 “We [Progressive Prince George’s] want to be sure that, should the rewrite go through, our new Zoning Ordinance puts residents’ needs over developers’ greed,” Dwyer said. “The residents deserve more than two months to review, consider, and comment on a document that has the potential to affect every aspect of life in the county for generations to come.”