Prince George’s County Zoning Bill Raises Concerns

A proposed zoning law is receiving mixed responses from environmentalists and builders in Prince George’s County.  County Bill 80 states that on all  future development projects within the county, environmentally friendly features, such as trees, must be used to filter 100 percent of rain runoff.  The state of Maryland currently requires that new developments catch and filter 50 percent of all rain runoff. Counties are allowed to set higher standards if they so desire. With the bill set to be voted on October 26th, residents are voicing their opinions on the proposed legislation.  The Gazette reports

Environmental groups say most pollution in area waterways comes when rainfall washes rapidly off “impervious surfaces” such as area parking lots, roads and driveways without filtering into the ground.

The proposal calls for developers seeking to build new construction or redevelop old sites to submit detailed plans on how they will catch and filter all the rain that falls on the property before they can get a building permit. According to the proposal, when possible, developers should avoid clearing trees and leveling land for development, and builders would be encouraged to reduce paved surfaces and create landscape islands of trees and shrubs to handle storm water naturally.
………The goal is to reduce the amount of paved surfaces in the county as builders create more shopping centers, office buildings and homes, as well as redevelop older properties, said Council Chairman Thomas Dernoga (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“We are basically following the philosophy the state has set out, [for the land] to be more reflective of the way natural runoff occurs before development,” Dernoga said.

While environmentalists are championing the bill as a long overdue step in making developments more attractive and preventing pollution, builders say the new rules are so strict that building in the county might grind to a halt.

“It’s burdening redevelopment at a greater level than any other jurisdiction in the state of Maryland,” said Tom Farasy, president of the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association, a trade group fighting the bill.

Farasy said builders will have to face strict guidelines if the new regulations are adopted, which are likely to cost more and make developers less likely to work in the county as it tries to build up its 15 Metro stations and inner Beltway communities.

“It dis-incentivizes the kind of redevelopment the county wants,” Farasy said. “Montgomery has this already. But they also have half of their Metro stations already developed.”

Montgomery County has a 100 percent runoff requirement in any new development.

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