It has been an active few months on the legislative front in Prince George’s County, from proposed updates to the County’s zoning ordinance to a new Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE) director being confirmed, and more.
Here are the highlights.
On July 18, 2023, the Prince George’s County Council introduced CB-73-2023, an approximately 250-page omnibus bill that is the first comprehensive and substantive update to the County’s new zoning ordinance.
The summary of the bill explains that the Council is “revising certain procedures and regulations” and “adding clarification language” to achieve the goals of the new zoning code, which took effect in April 2022. The Council referred the bill to its Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee for a future hearing.
Representatives of the building industry have reviewed the legislation and met with staff members of the Prince George’s County Planning Department to discuss several proposed revisions. The PHED Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on the bill; however, a committee hearing is anticipated later this year. A proposed draft 2 of the bill, incorporating the revisions, will likely be the subject of the future committee hearing.
Some of the proposed updates to the zoning ordinance in the omnibus bill include certain restrictions on rezoning properties to denser zones and significant increases in by-right density for several transit-oriented and activity-center base zones. Also noteworthy are likely revisions to provisions allowing applicants to access and utilize the prior zoning ordinance under certain circumstances. We will monitor the omnibus bill as it progresses through the legislative process.
Update to the Woodland Conservation Ordinance
At the conclusion of their most recent Session, the General Assembly passed extensive amendments to the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, which include updates to limitations on use of forest mitigation banks, ratios for the mitigation of forest clearing, exemptions to the Act, and appeals provisions.
As a result of the changes to the State law, the Prince George’s County Planning Department has begun the process of rewriting the local forest conservation code, the Woodland and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Ordinance. A small group of the Planning Department’s Environmental Planning Section, which manages the County’s woodland conservation program, is meeting with a contingent of the building community on the revisions to the local ordinance. A final draft of the revised ordinance is expected to be presented to the County Council by the end of the year.
Over the summer, representatives of the Planning Department presented the overhaul of the local ordinance to the Planning Board and the County Council. At the hearing before the Council, several members indicated that they had been considering individual forest or tree bills of their own and expressed interest in the update.
The County Council unanimously confirmed a new director of the Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement. During the confirmation hearing, however, several Council Members mentioned that they receive more complaints about DPIE than any other agency and emphasized that the narrative must change.
In addition, the Council introduced a bill that, if enacted, would establish a “permit early warning system” that will require DPIE to establish a “projected maximum time” for each permit type. According to the draft bill, if approval of a particular permit exceeds the “projected maximum time,” notice and written justification to the Director will be required.
The Director will be required to provide annual reports to the County Council and County Executive on an annual basis regarding average approval time by permit type. There are few details in the first draft of the bill regarding the process, and we expect further revisions before enactment.
Peter Goldsmith and Vince Biase are land use attorneys serving clients in Prince George’s County. For information on these or any other land use and zoning issues, please contact Peter at [email protected] or Vince at [email protected].