The Prince George's County Council approved the Upper Marlboro and Lower Patuxent Sectional Map Amendment this week, permitting the mostly rural farm area to keep its open space - its "Marlboro Country" - with only minor infringements by high density territory.

The plan puts much of the land south of Rte. 4 into categories called Open Space and Rural Agricultural. Open Space requires lots to have a minimum of five acres; Rural Agricultural allows for a minimum of two acres.

Champions of the "Marlboro Country" theme were "pleased" and "delighted" with the decision, which came after months of public hearings and work sessions with county planners and Council members.

The plan puts high density development zoning around the county seat of Upper Marlboro, with commercial and industrial zoning in the town and along Rte. 301.

Developers are already working on plans to build a shopping center for the southwest corner of Routes 301 and 4, across from the existing Marlboro Square Shopping Center.

Another land owner has discussed putting a fast food restaurant at the corner of Routes 301 and 408. Council members have been awary about permitting zoning to allow fast food restaurants and carryout establishments in the Marlboro vicinity. One such suggestion for a piece of land further down Rte. 301 prompted moans of disma from Council members.

But the real controversies in this land rezoning came over residential development.

Real Estate Central, a Bethesda developer, has already built a 100-acre golf course north of Upper Marlboro and has approved to build 3,863 units - townhouses, single family houses and apartments - on the remaining 268 acres. That development, coupled with new housing in Marlboro Meadows at the northeast of town, and Marlton, another planned community six miles to the south, have caused some residents to worry about the countryside's being overrun by people.

So, when a plan of another community, between Upper Marlboro and Marlton, that would have 1,300 units was submitted for zoning approval and inclusion in the SMA, residents came out in full force against it. The area, called Sasscer-Hill, was submitted as a comprehensive design zone (CDZ), which allows developers to increase density in large land areas in return for public benefit features like parks, bike trails and lakes.

The Sasscer-Hill Joint Venture would have put townhouses and single family homes on 504 acres of farm and wooded land. Opposition at public hearings and in work sessions, however, influenced the Council to reject the CDZ proposal. Aaron Handleman, attorney for the Sasscer-Hill venture, said the group will resubmit the plan within 30 days as a zoning amendment separate from the plan voted on this week.

Other density development across from the community of Marlboro Meadows was deterred as the Council approved a Rural Agricultural zoning for a large tract along the west of Rte. 301.

Marlton, a "bedroom" community already under development, received similar treatment as areas where one-half acre building could occur was changed to demand a minimum of one acre. Marlton residents, through public hearings, also curtailed commercial development in the heart of their community.

The Council's actions, based on "comprehensive rezoning of the planning areas to minimize piecemeal" development later, will "probably hold the area's population down to one-half the original potential" under the old zoning, according to county planners.