Prince George's council to consider controversial bills as several members prepare to leave office

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 12:13 AM

Prince George's County Council members are planning to vote on several controversial bills just before many of the members leave office in December because of term limits.

The measures would offer tax breaks to developers, implement new stormwater management regulations, make bond financing contingent on minority business participation and give pay raises to nonunionized employees.

The council is to consider the bills during a marathon session Tuesday.

"This is probably the longest physical agenda that I've seen," said Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel), who is leaving.

Two other bills that have created a stir would alter zoning on properties in Fort Washington and Bowie.

Council member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) has introduced legislation that would allow developer William Chesley of the Fort Washington Acres Partnership to build up to 360 townhouses or condominiums and commercial buildings on vacant land zoned for 72 single-family homes.

"He basically wants a blank check to sell what he can sell without [officials and residents] knowing what that is," William Cavitt, vice president of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, said of Chesley.

Knotts, who is leaving office, did not return calls or an e-mail seeking comment.

Chesley has said he wants to build retail and office space that would draw doctors from Fort Washington Medical Center as customers. If the property is rezoned, Chesley said he will give four acres to the medical center for expansion.

"We thought it was a good idea to work with the hospital to expand and increase the density to pay for roads there," Cavitt said. "If the hospital doesn't come forward and say we need this thing . . . then I'll say, 'Fine, thank you all for your time.'"

In Bowie, developer Ken Michael and the Lansdowne Development Group want to build a residential development known as Karington.

The current plan calls for 170 single-family homes, 275 townhouses, and 850 apartments and condominiums. The legislation would allow the developer to replace the apartments with townhouses, but the developer said it is unclear how many townhouses would be built.

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