The historic 2021 Maryland General Assembly session has just adjourned, and among the significant measures passed in this session is House Bill 980 (PG-416-21), allowing Prince George’s County to move forward with modernizing the county’s 50-year-old zoning ordinance. The bill, passed by the House as amended by the Senate, will now be forwarded to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature. The legislation becomes effective on July 1, 2021.
Advancing the county’s new zoning ordinances and countywide map amendment process to completion was included as a high priority in the December 2020 joint legislative priorities letter from Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and the county council to Gov. Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones.
The county’s zoning ordinance rewrite seeks to implement nationwide best practices to streamline our development review process, making it simpler and more user-friendly, and to allow for greater public input, maximize smart growth economic development and advance a sustainable environment to achieve a competitive edge in the region.
With the adoption of the county’s general plan (Plan 2035) in 2014, the county and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission embarked on updating the county’s zoning and subdivision ordinances, which unsuccessfully had been tried twice before. Following more than four years of community, stakeholder and consultant input, the Prince George’s County Council adopted the new zoning ordinance in 2018, and in 2019, the council authorized M-NCPPC to prepare a countywide map amendment, or CMA, to implement the newly created and reduced zones.
In March 2020, a scheduled in-person joint public hearing on the CMA was postponed for COVID safety, and in November 2020, a scheduled virtual joint public hearing was postponed and the joint county team, which I lead, reached out to state legislators to ensure it was appropriate to proceed in accordance with the state ethics law.
HB980 (PG-416-21), sponsored by House delegation Chair Erek Barron, of behalf of the county executive, county council and M-NCPPC, and supported by the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, Prince George’s Association of Realtors, Prince George’s Municipal Association and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, among others, provides the clarifying amendment to the state ethics law, permitting the CMA process to proceed to completion.
The leadership and support of the Prince George’s County Senate and House delegations and its members to pass this legislation on behalf of the county are gratefully and respectfully acknowledged. We appreciate the amendments presented by both the House and the Senate to address concerns raised, achieving a clearer, stronger measure.
The final passage of HB980 (PG-416-21), as amended, is critically important to the future growth, development and success of Prince George’s County. We look forward to re-engaging our citizens in this important process as we move forward together over the next year to implement the county’s 21st-century zoning ordinance.
To learn more about the zoning rewrite and the countywide map amendment process, visit the county’s zoning ordinance rewrite portal here.
–TODD M. TURNER
The writer, a Democrat, represents Prince George’s County’s 4th Council District and served as council chair in 2019 and 2020.