In March, the Prince George’s County Council acted on zoning legislation that will influence the County’s development trajectory for years to come.

The County Council’s proposed 280-page omnibus bill—otherwise known as a zoning corrections bill—was held in Committee and delayed beyond the April 1, 2024 deadline for allowing certain projects to be developed under the prior zoning ordinance. In response, the County Council passed temporary resolutions CR-22-2024 and CR-25-2024 to extend the ability to develop under the County’s prior zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations for an additional two years, until April 1, 2026. Council bills are expected to follow in order to codify the extensions.

The County Council will likely continue deliberations on the omnibus bill to better align the County’s new zoning ordinance with its original purpose: to replace the prior ordinance with a modern zoning ordinance that is user friendly and promotes growth in the County’s priority areas. We anticipate deliberations on the omnibus bill to continue into summer 2024. In the interim, it appears that applicants are now able to file development applications under both the prior and new codes until April 1, 2026.

How We Got Here: The Proposed Omnibus Legislation

The County Council originally introduced the omnibus bill in July 2023 as CB-73-2023, embodying the first substantial update to the County’s new zoning ordinance.

This legislation, spanning roughly 250 pages, was designed to refine certain procedures and clarify ambiguities. In addition, the first version of the omnibus bill addressed various deficiencies in the County’s new zoning ordinance, including an attempt to significantly increase allowable density in the County’s new transit-oriented and activity base zones.

The prior version of the omnibus bill ultimately encountered a varying degree of support across the factions in the Council during the 2023 legislative session. The Council ultimately held the 2023 iteration indefinitely in committee, permitting the Council to continue working with the Planning Department’s Staff on a revised version that would be introduced in 2024.

According to the plan, a revised omnibus bill was introduced in January 2024 as CB-15-2024, which is a new bill carrying forward the majority of changes proposed in CB-73-2023, including proposed density increases in transit-oriented areas. The 2024 iteration, however, received the same level of scrutiny among Council Members, Planning Staff, and the County’s development community as the prior version did.

Discourse around the 2024 omnibus bill culminated in a particularly contentious Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committee hearing on March 21, during which two key amendments were introduced. These amendments aimed to address concerns raised by stakeholders included the removal of a prohibition on townhouses in the new CGO (Commercial, General and Office) Zone outside the Beltway and a proposed two-year extension for development under the prior zoning ordinance. Despite efforts to refine the bill and address stakeholder concerns, the bill was again held in committee with the expectation that it would be subject to further discussion at a future PHED Committee meeting.

Council Response and Extension to Develop Under Prior Codes

In response to the impasse on the omnibus bill, and the pressing need to provide immediate guidance for ongoing and upcoming development projects, the County Council—by a narrow vote of 6–5—adopted resolutions CR-22-2024 and CR-25-2024.  The two resolutions are temporary measures until council bills are adopted, but they appear to effectively extend the timeline to allow certain new development under the prior zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations until April 1, 2026.

Next Steps

Looking ahead, we expect the legislative process for the omnibus bill to extend beyond initial expectations. We anticipate further deliberations on the bill to possibly extend into the summer, as the Council seeks additional input from stakeholders that addresses the nuances associated with developing real estate in Prince George’s County. As a result, the Council has not scheduled a future PHED Committee hearing on the bill.  In the meantime, applicants appear to be able to utilize the County’s prior zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations until April 1, 2026, in accordance with CR-22-2024 and CR-25-2024.

For more information on the proposed omnibus bill, the two-year extension to develop under the prior zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations, and related legislative developments in Prince George’s County, please contact land use attorneys Peter Goldsmith and Vince Biase.