Monday, December 16, 2013

Last Day to Submit Comments on Plan Prince George's 2035

Today is the last day to submit public comments on the preliminary draft of Plan Prince George's 2035, the county's update to its comprehensive countywide General Plan for future growth and development. The Prince George's County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) held a joint public hearing with the Prince George's County Council on November 12 to receive oral comments on the draft plan. The written comment period was extended until 5:00 p.m. today, December 16, 2013.

County planners will review and digest all public comments received by the deadline and decide whether to recommend any additional amendments to the preliminary draft of the General Plan. If there are significant amendments, the planners and the County Council may schedule another joint public hearing in advance of adopting and approving a final document.

Because all comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. today, you should email or hand-deliver your comments to the council. Emails should be sent to, and you  must also send a hardcopy of your comments via mail to:

The Clerk of the County Council
County Administration Building
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

My public comments are below:

December 15, 2013

Ms. Redis C. Floyd, Clerk
Prince George’s County Council
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Room 2198 
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

Re:      Public Comments Regarding Plan Prince George’s 2035

Dear Ms. Floyd:

Please accept this correspondence as my written public comments regarding the preliminary draft of Plan Prince George’s 2035. This past summer, in advance of the preparation of the preliminary draft, I met with the Planning Department staff and shared with them a draft of a policy paper that I had written, which addressed several issues that I believed should be considered in the county’s General Plan update. That document, entitled Plan Prince George’s 2035: Thinking and Growing Smartly Downtown and Beyond, is available online at and is incorporated herein by this reference.

As I communicated to the staff during my meetings with them this past summer, and in my policy paper, I believe the Planning Department has done exceptional work in the planning and preparation of this preliminary draft. By and large, this plan sets out a bold vision for Prince George’s County’s future growth and development. 

I offer the comments below in an effort to ensure that the final draft of Plan Prince George’s 2035 remains closer to its overall goal of ensuring a county that “develops sustainably and equitably[;] . . . directs new development to existing transit-oriented centers; focuses public investment on its economic engines; capitalizes on and maintains its infrastructure; strengthens its established communities; and proactively preserves its natural, historic, and cultural  resources.”

Growth Policy Map (Map 1, pp. 12-16, 78)
  • Differentiate between local and suburban centers. Among the local centers, differentiate between those that are Metro-accessible and those that aren’t.
  • Reconsider the statement, “Suburban Centers will often be larger in size and may rely more on vehicular transportation.” 
    • Automobile-oriented suburban centers should not be larger than local, Metro-accessible centers.
    • Non-exiting suburban centers that aren’t currently connected to transit (e.g., Westphalia, Konterra, Brandywine) should not be designated.
  • The “Established Communities” area outside the Beltway is still too massive. It doesn’t differ substantially from the sprawling “Developing Tier” of the 2002 plan. More of this area needs to be moved to “Reserve Areas” or “Agriculture Areas.”
    • The existence of public water and sewer service shouldn’t be the only criterion by which land area is considered for “Reserve Areas.”
    • All areas outside of the Beltway that are identified in the 2005 Countywide Green Infrastructure Functional Master Plan as a Regulated Area, Evaluation Area, or Network Gap should be carefully evaluated for designation as a “Reserve Area” or “Agriculture Area” in this update to the General Plan.
    • If the area is presently undeveloped and is not served by existing roads (or roads that are bonded and fully funded for construction), then the area should be designated as a Reserve Area. 
    • If the undeveloped area consists of more than 25 contiguous acres of forest lands, it should be designated as an Agriculture Area.
    • Established Communities should be limited to platted subdivisions with existing (or bonded and fully funded) roads and constructed housing that occupies at least 25% of the lots of the subdivision.
Priority Investment Map (pp. 17-19, 189)
  • The Neighborhood Reinvestment Areas should be expanded to include any area that, as of October 1, 2013, was designated as a Maryland Sustainable Community (including any area previously designated by DCHD as a Community Legacy Area or Designated Neighborhood), Targeted Area, or Enterprise Zone. 
  • The six neighborhoods designated in 2011 in connection with the County Executive’s “Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative” (TNI) program represent only a miniscule sample of the county neighborhoods that “have experienced a marked decline in property values, critical services, and neighborhood amenities and an increase in crime.” Most of the areas inside the Beltway, including the entirety of the 20743 Zip Code (including the municipalities of Capitol Heights, Fairmount Heights, Seat Pleasant, and the surrounding unincorporated areas) fall within this category and are no less deserving of designation as Neighborhood Reinvestment Areas.
  • The state Sustainable Community, Targeted Area, and Enterprise Zone designations were intended to identify communities and neighborhoods in need of reinvestment. Additional funding from the state is available in all of these designated areas to assist with reinvestment and revitalization. All of the TNI areas fall within one or more of these state designations. It would make little sense for the General Plan not to include as Neighborhood Reinvestment Areas those locations that have already been designated  as Sustainable Communities, Targeted Areas, and Enterprise Zones. 

Generalized Future Land Use Map (pp. 79-81)

  • The “Residential Medium-High” category should be > 8 and <= 40 DU/Ac (instead of maxing out at 20). This will overlap with the “Residential High” category, whose minimum DU/Ac should remain at >20
  • All 15 Metro station centers should be designated as “Mixed Use,” not “Residential.”
Plan 2035 Regional Transit and Local and Suburban Centers (p. 83)
  • Reconsider the following statement: “In support of the Plan 2035 growth concept, the eight Regional Transit Centers (which include the Priority Investment Districts and Primary Employment Areas) are the focus of the county’s planned growth and mixed use development. The Local and Suburban Centers are secondary, and provide smaller scale opportunities for development. Because the employment and office growth that is anticipated over the next 20 years is limited and the counties’ retail market is saturated, it is important to focus the commercial growth to the Regional Transit Centers in the near term.”
  • While the county’s largest employers (e.g., major federal and state agencies) should be located at the Regional Transit Centers, the plan should not discourage the development of vibrant mixed-use centers at other Metro stations, where such development is feasible. 
  • Consider the following alternative language: “In support of the Plan 2035 growth concept, the county should focus its planned growth and mixed use development at regional and local centers that are well connected to rail transit. The county’s largest employers and retailers should be encouraged to develop at the eight Regional Transit Centers (which include the Priority Investment Districts and Primary Employment Areas). Smaller office and retail development should be directed to Local Transit Centers. Local or suburban centers that are not connected to rail transit should have only neighborhood-serving retail and very limited office uses, such as individual live-work condominium units.” 

Growth Policy #1, Table 15: Growth Management (p. 90)

  • Separate out the local centers from the suburban centers, and change the following DU percentages to:
    • Local Centers - 25% (15,750 DUs)
    • Suburban Centers - 9% (5,670 DUs)
    • Established Communities - 5% (3,150 DUs)
    • Rural & Agricultural: 1% (630 DUs)

Thank you for the opportunity to offer these public comments. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Sincerely yours,
/s/ Bradley E. Heard
Bradley E. Heard