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.
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.
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.
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,
Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth
P.S. Click here to view our testimony and get more of the details.
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.
Photo Credit: C. Cort
We wish to express our support for the proposed reduced parking to a total of 4 spaces to serve the redevelopment project at 1108 16th Street, NW which will provide office space and 15 residences, while preserving the historic façade of the original building. Given the awkward site and preserved historic features, the reduced parking is reasonable relief, especially for such an accessible location.
RE: Opinion on Case No. 14-11 (Office of Planning–Text Amendments to Chapters 1 & 4: Definition of Mezzanine and R-4 Zones) CSG agrees with the intent of the Office of Planning’s (OP) proposed amendment to ensure compatibility of new development with existing development in R-4 neighborhoods. However, upon review of the proposal we believe that certain modifications would help to better align the amendment with this intent. Further, in a time when strong demand to live in the city is leasing to increased housing prices, we are
concerned that this proposal could have the adverse effect of constricting housing…
“It is a really important step forward for the city,” said Cheryl Cort, the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who detailed her position on the zoning rewrite, which covers more than parking requirements, in a blog post at Greater Greater Washington.
“Everything tells us that people are driving less and are owning fewer cars. Every day we have another transportation option and there are all these new ways for people to get around,” Cort said.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the main group trying to organize people in support of the D.C. zoning update proposal in the face of paranoid opposition.