Tag: Prince George’s County

RISE Prince George’s

RISE Prince George’s

Image: Cheryl Cort

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NEW: Dec. 13: Join us from 6-8 pm for the RISE Prince George’s Holiday Happy Hour. Click here to learn more.

RISE Prince George’s Platform 2022

On December 13, 2021, we launched our RISE Prince George’s election platform to educate candidates and the public about how to build a better Prince George’s. We will be working with constituents and allies to reaching out to candidates targeted County Council and General Assembly races to build support with our future elected officials to build a more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive County.

Learn more >>>

RISE Prince George’s group meeting.

Mission Statement: RISE Prince George’s is a group of County residents and allies advocating for policies and practices that build shared, sustainable prosperity in Prince George’s County by creating safe, walkable, inclusive and transit-oriented communities.

Vision: We seek to build a prosperous, equitable and sustainable future Prince George’s that contains:

  • Multiple thriving transit-focused downtowns (North, Central, and Southern parts of the County)
  • Inclusive, safe, and connected neighborhoods and municipalities
  • Preserved open spaces and natural areas

Assumptions: With 15 Metro stations, another 11 Purple Line stations on the way, and 8 MARC stations, the County’s transit assets are THE competitive advantage – for promoting future job growth, local economic development, and generating needed increases in the County’s tax base. Prince George’s also has the benefit of planning for a future which currently forecasts increased job growth, demand to live near transit, and the need for more homes near jobs and transit.

Objective: Through developing a strategy for shared prosperity and equitable development that is generated from and advocated by and for Prince Georgians (and their allies), we can create a virtuous cycle of economic growth which retains homegrown talent and businesses, attracts new investment, and improves both people and places  – especially those historically excluded from wealth and opportunity.

Equitable economic development through transit-oriented development (TOD) will create the base of public and private resources that are necessary to support high-performing schools, community-oriented public safety services, increasing the amount of high-quality housing for people of all incomes close to jobs and essential services, as well as better employment, entrepreneurship, retail amenities, and wealth-building opportunities for all County residents.

How RISE Prince George’s will accomplish its vision: We will work with our members to educate, engage and mobilize for a policy agenda that reshapes policy and budget priorities to build on the County’s assets – transit, established communities, and the kinds of anchor institutions which drive job creation and economic growth.

We meet regularly (every 4-6 weeks), host programming (both virtual and, eventually, in-person) to educate/engage our members, and, in turn, formulate action plans for specific policy change campaigns.

Summary of potential long-term policy agenda:

  • Win equitable placemaking and transit-oriented development projects that begin to demonstrate what an inclusive walkable urban and smart growth future in Prince George’s could look like
  • Win land use and housing policy changes to sustainably grow the economy, livability, community benefits and equity of opportunity among residents
  • Win key transportation investments and policies to greatly improve the quality, safety, affordability and reliability of public transportation and access to daily needs, especially for low income people and communities

We embrace the Prince George’s Rising proposed county-wide Alliance for Equity and Prosperity, and see our group contributing to it, specifically focused on the TOD organizing strategy for equity.

Join us! Sign up here.

We Won! Prince George’s to move ahead with long overdue zoning rewrite

We Won! Prince George’s to move ahead with long overdue zoning rewrite

Great news: the Maryland General Assembly voted to pass HB 980, and enable Prince George’s County to implement its new zoning regulations!

HB 980 amends an existing state ethics law unique to Prince George’s. Like other jurisdictions, the County needed to repeal and replace its entire zoning map to implement its new zoning regulations. But this action ran into a potential conflict with its unique zoning ethics law that does not apply to any other jurisdiction. 

To address this, the Prince George’s House Delegation introduced HB 980 and helped advance the bill from the House to the state Senate. In the Senate, under the leadership of Senator Paul Pinsky, the bill was amended to address concerns and ensure broad support. The legislation was retitled: Prince George’s County – Public Ethics – Application Payments and Transfer and Zone Intensification Requests. Most significantly, the amended bill offers an extra safeguard by prohibiting the County Council from approving zoning intensification (to build more on a site) requests that differ substantially from the zoning category already adopted in 2019.

In addition to Senator Pinsky, we are also grateful to Senator Malcolm Augustine, Delegate Erek Barron, and Delegate Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk for their thoughtful engagement to create this successful outcome. 

The zoning rewrite is important because it helps the County better guide transit-oriented development and create more walk- and bike-friendly designs. This not only benefits Prince George’s but all of Maryland by focusing more of the region’s growth around transit stations and close-in communities. More transit-oriented development reduces how much people in our growing region need to drive, and gives us more opportunities to walk, bicycle and ride transit for more of our trips. This all reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pressure to build on greenfields. A modern zoning code also means thriving places and a stronger economy. 

We are grateful to al those who took taking action to ensure Prince George’s can use the tools it needs to guide a more sustainable and prosperous future. 

Take Action: Don’t let the MD General Assembly kill Prince George’s zoning rewrite

Take Action: Don’t let the MD General Assembly kill Prince George’s zoning rewrite

No matter where you live in Maryland, join us in supporting Prince George’s County. Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore recently updated their zoning codes but the General Assembly could in effect block Prince George’s from doing so.

The Prince George’s House delegation is sponsoring a bill (HB 980), on behalf of County Executive Alsobrooks, the County Council and the Planning Commission. This bill will allow the County to finalize and vote to approve the Countywide Zoning Map Amendment. This singular action is needed to repeal and replace the county’s outdated zoning code. The bill is advancing through the Maryland General Assembly but needs to get all its final votes by the end of the session on April 12, 2021.

Take action now: email your Maryland legislators!

Here’s the issue:

Prince George’s County has worked for six years and spent millions of dollars to painstakingly modernize its outdated zoning code to better support transit-oriented development, and walk- and bike-friendly communities. The zoning rewrite also makes it easier to understand; and sets time-limits on development approvals which today can last forever. But a state ethics law, which only applies to Prince George’s County, would prevent councilmembers who have received a campaign donation from any affected property owner in the County (approximately 300,000 different properties and 250,000 different owners) from voting on the Countywide Zoning Map Amendment that implements the new zoning. No other jurisdiction in the state has this very restrictive law.

The proposed legislation is limited to enabling the County Council to vote for the Countywide Zoning Map Amendment – the total repeal and replacement of old zones with the new, updated zones. The County Council and Planning Commission have established, by local legislation and approvals, a decision process that will take public feedback, evaluate all properties and make recommendations on designations to place all properties in the County into one of the new zones most equivalent to its existing zone (i.e. Residential, Commercial, Industrial or Mixed-Use zones). 

It does not affect any other zoning decision and this does not apply to everyday, individual zoning and development review matters that come before the Council currently or in the future.

Email your state legislators today!

Without this legislation, Prince George’s will be stuck with outdated zoning, frustrating efforts to make zoning more understandable and preventing the county from shaping a more sustainable and competitive future.

The fate of years of work to bring Prince George’s zoning into the modern era hangs in the balance. Please email today!

Thanks for all you do,

Cheryl Cort

Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth

P.S. Click here to view our testimony and get more of the details.

CSG in the News: Prince George’s Zoning Rewrite Stalls Over Unique Ethics Rule

CSG in the News: Prince George’s Zoning Rewrite Stalls Over Unique Ethics Rule

UPDATE 4/12/2021: The revised bill, HB 980, passed both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate. Thanks to all those who took action! The final bill was amended (changes we supported) to address concerns and ensure broad support. View final bill here.

“First on FOX 5: Prince George’s County has spent millions of dollars over six years on a massive countywide rezoning plan. Leaders say it’s crucial to make the county more competitive and business friendly, but after all that time and money, the process has hit a hurdle.” View FOX 5 story here.

CSG testified in support of the state bill because adjusting the County’s unique ethics rules for the Countywide Zoning Map amendment will be the final step in implementing the years-long update to the zoning code. Adopting the modern, updated zoning regulations is a once in a generation opportunity. Montgomery County and Baltimore City do not have this ethics rule, unique to Prince George’s, and have already adopted their next-generation zoning regulations.

View CSG’s testimony in support of completing the Countywide rezoning here. View our action alert here. The proposed legislation can be viewed here and final bill is here.

Photo Credit: C. Cort

Ruling could make building projects easier in Prince George’s

A recent appeals court decision could make it significantly easier for developers to build projects in Prince George’s County by limiting the ability of county lawmakers to intervene.

Maryland’s Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Prince George’s County Council exceeded its authority to review and revise development decisions made by the county planning board.

The ruling involved a proposed retail center in Adelphi that was approved by the planning board but later put on hold by the council, which wanted the developer to make design changes, including the number of trees to be planted on the property.

“The District Council possessed only appellate jurisdiction to review the Planning Board’s decisions,” Judge Glenn T. Harrell wrote. The council “was authorized to reverse the decision . . . only if the Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence, was arbitrary, capricious, or illegal otherwise.”

Developers and their attorneys say the decision will bring Prince George’s in line with neighboring jurisdictions, putting an end to an era in which county residents could turn to their council representatives to try to stop projects that they didn’t want in their neighborhoods.

Until now, interference by the council has made development in Prince George’s “sort of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ experience,” said attorney Timothy Maloney, who represented Zimmer Development Company in its bid to build the retail strip.

“The council adds years to the development process,” Maloney said, “and has harmed the [county’s] economic development reputation.”

County-elected leaders requested the unique, quasi-judicial authority from the Maryland General Assembly decades ago, arguing that “the public needed to have a bigger voice in development decisions,” said Council Chair Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro). He said lawmakers are assessing the implications of the appeals court’s ruling.

Citizens can still participate in public hearings held by the planning board. But civic activist Kelly Canavan, who has fought several developments in southern Prince George’s, said that she and other activists often leave those sessions feeling powerless.

“The planning board kind of does what it wants and is extremely developer-friendly,” she said, adding that the council “was one of the few ways a citizen could ask for help when a real awful development was coming to their community.”

Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, disagreed, saying that planning board members are professionals who are guided by zoning rules that offer little room for outside influence.

Cort said the court ruling offers the board a chance to invite more citizen participation, because residents no longer have the council to turn to except in certain circumstances. She said she hopes the planning board will schedule more meetings in the evening, so residents can attend more easily, and will publish its public notices more widely.

Longtime observers said one reason the council came to play such a major role in development decisions was that the county’s zoning rules are complicated and antiquated, and in some cases ill-suited to guide modern-day development.

The county is rewriting the nearly half-century-old code to reflect the jurisdiction’s changing needs and improve public participation. Planning officials say their goal is to simplify a code that, over the years, has grown to include more than 50 zones detailed on more than 1,200 pages.

“The zones have not kept up with the modern economy,” Franklin said. “There is not a great deal of confidence in our zones. The rules are not very clear.”

The county wants to require higher-density development around public transit and establish clearer boundaries for its rural and agricultural sector.

Planning and zoning officials are asking for public input and expect the rewrite to be approved by the summer of 2017.

“We should have more robust ways for citizens to get involved in the development review process early,” Franklin said. “Then, when you get to the end stages of the process, it will be much clearer to everybody the direction that the development is going. That’s the ultimate goal: to have stronger rules and more certainty on the front end.”

Read this at The Washington Post >>

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision is in on the Purple Line

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday the Purple Line will advance, but the two local counties that stand to benefit from the light rail line will be asked to shoulder a much larger burden.

The alignment of the 16-mile Purple Line will not change, nor will the number of stations. But Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, Hogan said, will have to take on a greater percentage of the estimated $2.5 billion-plus price tag. The federal government, he said, must come through with its anticipated $900 million infusion. And tweaks to the project, such as extending the headway between trains from 6 to 7.5 minutes, will further drive down the cost.

Maryland officials say those changes, if accepted, will drive down the state’s investment from more than $700 million to less than $300 million.

“I look forward to further discussions with the Governor over ever

y aspect of the Purple Line – cost, design, construction schedule, and the role Montgomery County will be able to play in making the Purple Line a reality,” Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said in a statement. “Enabling people to move around the Washington D.C. Metro area is extremely important to our overall quality of life. It is important for us to continue to invest in new businesses that create jobs and grow our tax base. Montgomery County benefits. Prince George’s County benefits. And, the State of Maryland really benefits.”

In the same vein, Baker thanked Hogan for recognizing the “positive impact this project could have on the region and the State of Maryland,” while simultaneously not committing to the new terms.

“Prince George’s County has already committed an extraordinary amount for local governments to contribute toward a state project,” Baker said in a statement. “I will thoroughly review this proposal along with my budget, finance, economic development and transportation advisors to assess what this means for Prince George’s County. In addition, we will work in concert with Montgomery County to analyze whether this new proposal maintains the spirit of the initial plan for the Purple Line and will lead to the outcomes and benefits we have been talking about for years.”

Long a Purple Line skeptic given the anticipated cost, Hogan’s decision to build what supporters deem a critical economic development and smart growth initiative came as something of a surprise, as the governor kicked off his press conference with a new commitment to invest $2 billion roads and bridges — deferred maintenance and new construction.

The list includes $200 million for a new I-495/I-95 interchange at Greenbelt — a project that’s needed to bring the FBI headquarters there — as well as $100 million for congestion reduction efforts on Interstate 270 and $190 million to widen Route 404 on the Eastern Shore from two to four lanes.

“We’re going to touch the daily lives of citizens across our state,” Hogan said.

Maryland must invest in projects that will help the greatest number of people, the governor said, adding he is not opposed to public transportation, only “wasteful boondoggles.” Driving the Purple Line’s cost down was mandatory, he said, but the project itself will be an “economic driver for Maryland.”

“I’ve always said this decision was never about whether public transportation is worthwhile, but about whether it is affordable and makes economic sense,” he said.

Running between Bethesda and New Carrollton, the preferred east-west Purple Line alignment includes 21 stations with stops in Silver Spring, Takoma/Langley Park and College Park. It will serve an estimated 69,000 daily riders by 2040, create thousands of construction jobs and provide easier access and connections between various Metro’s Green and Red lines, MARC and Amtrak.

“I welcome Governor @LarryHogan’s decision to proceed with the #PurpleLine. It is a needed project to improve mobility & the economy,” Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal tweeted shortly after the announcement.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has not yet publicly responded to the governor’s announcement, though he is expected to later Thursday. Neither county executive was in Annapolis for the governor’s press conference. And while both have shown unwavering support for the Purple Line, their respective counties are not swimming in extra revenue to throw its way.

Proponents of the transit line say they are concerned about changes to it, including the headway reduction and the decision to not build a second staging area for light rail cars. Still, said the Silver Spring-based Action Committee for Transit, Hogan’s choice is “good news for Marylanders who want more jobs, more travel options and better communities.”

“There is no better transportation and economic development investment for the state of Maryland,” added Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a statement. “This project will knit together job centers, expand access to high quality transit to new places, and provide much needed east-west connections in the dense inner suburbs of some of the most important economic parts of the state.”

Read original article here.

Gov. Larry Hogan Gives The Green Light To The Purple Line

Wearing a green cancer awareness pin and a purple tie, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan officially gave the go-ahead for the Purple Line this afternoon.

Hogan—who campaigned hard on his opposition to the light rail line—directed his new administration to study the proposal and find ways to get costs down before deciding on its fate. He announced today that the approval is contingent on the project receiving $900 million in federal funding, several design changes, and increased contributions from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which he declined to enumerate. The state would then be responsible for $168 million, he said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn also noted several changes that brings costs from a “Cadillac project” to a “Chevy” one, in his words, though it will have the same alignment and number of stations as proposed. He said that reducing train intervals from every 6 minutes to 7.5 minutes, for example, would reduce the number of cars that have to be purchased and eliminate the need for a second staging area.

“Governor Hogan’s decision to build the Purple Line is good news for Marylanders,” the Action Committee for Transit Statement said in a release. “We are disappointed, however, that the governor chose to reduce the train frequency and passenger-carrying capacity. In all likelihood, future administrations will have to buy more cars. We ask MNCPPC planners to preserve the land needed for expanded storage and maintenance facilities.”

Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director Stewart Schwartz echoed those fears about how the cost-saving measures would impact the project: “We are concerned about proposed changes to lower the costs, especially the decision to not build the second staging area for light rail cars, which could lead to poorer service,” he said.

It wasn’t an easy decision, Hogan said, adding that bringing the costs down and looking at the benefits in terms of economic development and job creation helped sway his decision. “We spent five months, tons of time and effort to come to the right decision and I think it is the right one.”

He came to the opposite conclusion regarding a proposed light-rail project in Baltimore, nixing the Red Line project as “fatally flawed.”

“We are not opposed to public transportation, but we are opposed to wasteful boondoggles,” he said. The Red Line “needs to be set aside and we will look for other ways to assist Baltimore with their transportation needs.”

Among the things working against that proposal, Rahn said, is the part that calls for major $1 billion tunnel through the heart of the city.

Hogan also announced nearly $2 billion in spending for a slate of new road, bridge, and highway investments, while repeatedly slamming Martin O’Malley’s administration for neglecting them. Those included both projects already in the works as well $848 million for new highway and bridge construction. “These critical investments will finally give our administration the ability to repair and maintain Maryland’s road system, which has suffered from years of chronic underfunding,” Hogan said, emphasizing that the money will go toward projects in every single county in the state.

The conference was Hogan’s first public appearance since announcing a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma earlier this week. He gave an update to his condition, saying that a bone marrow test came back negative for cancer, meaning that it is stage 3, to sustained applause.

“The outpouring of support has been incredible. Thousands of people have been reaching out. I can’t thank people enough,” the governor said. He will check into the hospital on Monday for four days of the round-the-clock chemotherapy. “It’s a terrible thing to have this come up, but the good part is the outpouring of friendship and well wishes—from all across the aisle. Some of our little squabbles don’t seem nearly as important.”

Read the complete article here.

Montgomery, Prince George’s officials are relieved by Purple Line decision

Political and business leaders and transit advocates in Maryland’s Washington suburbs mostly exhaled on Thursday after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he was willing to let a less costly version of the light-rail Purple Line go forward.

But there was worry, too — especially in Prince George’s County, where political leaders expressed concern about Hogan’s demand that their county and neighboring Montgomery pick up a greater share of the project’s costs.

“It’s really too early to tell what all this means for the Purple Line,” said County Council chairman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro). “We are pleased the governor gave the project the green light. But the conditions imposed create a great deal of uncertainty.”

“We need to know how much exactly is being asked for,” Franklin said. “We have to determine whether both counties can afford it, and it’s hard to know without knowing how much he wants.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker II (D), who earlier this month lost a bitter fight to raise property taxes in order to generate money for public schools, said his county “has already committed an extraordinary amount for a local government” toward the Purple Line.

But he pledged to “thoroughly review” Hogan’s proposal, and to consult with Montgomery officials “to analyze whether this new proposal maintains the spirit of the initial plan.”

In more affluent Montgomery, officials were more sanguine about Hogan’s push for additional local dollars.

“I’m very positive that we can work all of those details out,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). He said the additional money would “almost certainly” come from the county’s capital budget through the sale of general obligation bonds, which would allow the county to spread the financing out over a period of years.

“Could we bond-fund an extra $50 million? Probably,” said Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), vice president of the Montgomery County Council. “We have a very heavy capital program today, but I don’t think it would push us over the brink.”

Floreen said she was happy Hogan had finally made his announcement, after months of deliberations. “It takes a lot of the chest-bashing out of the conversation,” she said. “Now we get down to brass tacks.”

Miti Figueredo, a spokeswoman for the Chevy Chase Land Company, which has led the pro-Purple Line fight for the Montgomery business community, said business leaders have had no conversations with county officials about the possibility of pitching in, just as commercial property owners along part of the Metrorail Silver Line route have done via a special taxing district.

“We’re willing to have conversations about ‘How can we make this happen?’ ” Figueredo said. “I’m confident both counties will step up and make their contributions, because the project is so important to the economies of both counties.”

The Chevy Chase Land Company owns land at what will be a future Purple Line station on Connecticut Avenue, in Chevy Chase Lake.

Many of those who had feared Hogan would cancel the project altogether said there was time to worry about the specifics later.

“I’m just happy it’s been approved,” said Jim Estepp, president of the Prince George’s Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives, chief financial officers and chief operating officers who run businesses in the county.

“It’s not unusual for these burdens to fall on local jurisdictions. . . . Going forward, people are going to now be looking at the details.”

Although opponents of the rail line, including environmentalists, threatened legal challenges, transit advocates applauded Hogan’s decision.

“We’re thrilled,” said Purple Line Now executive director Christine Scott. “I think what we’ve heard here is that the governor gets it. Jobs and connecting the counties are key, and he understands that, so we’re tickled.”

At the same time, Scott added that she’s anxious to hear how the counties feel about their expected contributions. “I think we need to know more – the extent of what the governor is asking and how much they were prepared for,” she said.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said the state should pay more.

“Given that the state and the federal government will often pay 100 percent of a highway project, it would be fairer for the state to put more money into the Purple Line than he’s proposing,” he said.

Montgomery council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda), chairman of the council’s transportation and environment committee, said he was confident that Hogan’s ask was “not a showstopper.”

“We can’t lose this project based on the numbers we’re talking about here,” Berliner said.

He also gave a shout-out to Hogan, who had criticized the Purple Line proposal harshly as a candidate but promised to keep an open mind and learn more about it once taking office.

“He came a long way with respect to this project. He really he was not a believer and over time he came to appreciate how important it was to fulfilling his fundamental objective, which is more jobs and a stronger economy.”

Katherine Shaver contributed to this report.

Read original article here.