Reimagining Land Use in Prince George’s County

In 2014, the Prince George’s County Council adopted Plan Prince George’s 2035 (Plan 2035), the new General Plan for Prince George’s County. Plan 2035 will guide investment in the county for the next 20 years.

Plan 2035 revolutionized long-term land use and planning policy in Prince George’s County by establishing policies that focus growth in eight designated Regional Transit Districts:

  • Branch Avenue Metro
  • College Park/UM Metro/M Square Purple Line
  • Greenbelt Metro
  • Largo Town Center Metro
  • National Harbor
  • New Carrollton Metro
  • Prince George’s Plaza Metro
  • Suitland Metro

Plan 2035 set the stage for more area-specific comprehensive planning for each of these Regional Transit Districts.

As a result, the Largo Town Center Metro, New Carrollton Metro, and Prince George’s Plaza Metro each have been through the comprehensive planning process in anticipation of both public and private investment. Largo Town Center is the beneficiary of both county and state investment with the groundbreaking of the new state-of-the-art Regional Medical Center. The New Carrollton Metro is the new headquarters of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Prince George’s
Plaza Metro has seen a tremendous amount of private investment over the course of the last 10 years.

Although Plan 2035 encourages the greatest intensity of development in the Regional Transit Districts, other areas of Prince George’s County are planned for increased investment as well. Plan 2035 establishes Local Transit Centers, Neighborhood Centers, Campus Centers, and Town Centers, as well as Employment Areas such as the Baltimore Avenue corridor. Baltimore Avenue (US Route 1), between the District of Columbia and MD Route 450, is ideally situated for redevelopment from a transportation perspective
and is close to the University of Maryland at College Park.

Zoning and Subdivision Laws Rewrite 

Once Plan 2035 was adopted, the Prince George’s County Council began the process of establishing more efficient zoning tools to implement the land use and planning policies. The County Council currently is reviewing the new Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances. The proposed ordinances are intended to implement the long range vision of Plan 2035 and to simplify the existing codes. For example, the current zoning ordinance includes more than 70 different zones, 30 of which were enacted to facilitate mixed-use development. In contrast, the proposed zoning ordinance includes only 30 zones, approximately seven of which would facilitate mixed-use development.

The proposed ordinances are subject to the approval of the County Council. The County Council likely will make revisions to the proposed ordinances during the course of the legislative process. The County Council is expected to take formal action on the proposed ordinances during Fall 2018.

Subsequent to the adoption of the ordinances, in order to implement the zones created by the proposed zoning ordinance, the County Council will enact a Countywide Sectional Map Amendment (SMA). Typically, the SMA process takes 18 months. If the SMA process is initiated in January 2019, then it could be enacted by the County Council in Fall 2020.

As with all legislative acts, the approval of and timing associated with the proposed ordinances and SMA are subject to the discretion of the legislative body. Considering that 2018 is an election year in which all Prince George’s County Councilmembers are up for reelection (and five of the councilmembers are term limited), it is possible that the zoning rewrite schedule could be impacted. Additionally, the schedule for the SMA will be determined by the new County Councilmembers who will be elected later this year. Stay tuned to Lerch Early for further updates.

Chris Hatcher is a land use attorney well versed in the regulatory and political processes in Prince George’s County. For more, contact him at 301-657-0153 or [email protected].