Prince George’s council curbs new homes in Brandywine area

The Prince George’s County Council approved a resolution Tuesday that will essentially place a moratorium on building homes in a large part of the county’s southern region.

The council, concerned that residential growth has outpaced road improvements, voted 8 to 1 to approve the measure. Council member Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville) voted against the resolution. Johnson, who was attending her second day of work since submitting her resignation, did not comment on her vote.

“It’s designed to prevent further overburdening of the roads in the Brandywine area, particularly the 301 corridor,” said council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), who sponsored the resolution.

According to the resolution, builders that fail to meet the adequate-roads standards will no longer be able to contribute to the Brandywine Road Club, a fund set up in the early 1990s to help offset the cost of building roads. Previously, builders that did not meet the standards would pay a formula-based fee to satisfy the adequate-roads requirement.

Franklin’s resolution abolishes the fund.

The original resolution would have prevented all building in Brandywine. It was amended Tuesday to exclude commercial and industrial uses and any development that creates jobs. The legislation also provides a grandfather clause for projects that are in the pipeline.

Franklin said he submitted the resolution because the fund, which has $2.6 million, was allowing residential development to be built even when the projects did not meet the adequate-roads test. Meanwhile, he said, the roads were not being built because of a shortage of money.

If roads cannot accommodate the traffic generated by a subdivision, Franklin said, it is also likely that fire and police services will have trouble meeting their adequate-facilities standards.

“The resolution will help prevent problems, from times from getting worse,” he said.

Prince George’s has long struggled to slow the place of growth in the county.

In 2004, the council voted to allow residential construction only if police and fire departments met certain standards for staffing and emergency response times. A year later, the council lengthened the response times and allowed developers to pay a fee if they could not meet the standards.

Brad Frome, the deputy chief of staff for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, said the administration “supports the objective of the legislation.”

Since the legislation is in the form of a resolution, Baker does not have the option of vetoing it.

“We appreciate the exception for commercial, industrial and retail development,” Frome said after the vote. “That’s the kind of development we want to promote in the county.”

But builders and their representatives have raised concerns that stopping contributions to the fund may cause more congestion.

F. Hamer Campbell Jr., the director of government affairs for the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association, said builders don’t like road clubs, but they are a way of moving projects forward and “it helps the county to build roads.”

Prince George’s uses special funds in several areas to help pay for streets.

Campbell said he was pleased that the bill was amended to exclude commercial and industrial projects. His concern is that mixed-use developments, which may include residential, retail and office space, “are down the drain.”

It may be too idealistic to expect infrastructure to be built before new homes, he said.

“I just don’t think that is going to be the case,” he said.

He said the county should also acknowledge that it needs residents living near businesses. Otherwise, he said, economic development may not move forward as quickly as the county might like.

“You need residential as a complement to the commercial that the county wants,” Campbell said.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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