Concerns over proposed highways, increased water and air pollution and changes in population densities brought two usually opposing groups in Prince George's County - land developers and local residents - to the same side on at least one issue last week.
In two public hearings, area residents and businessmen told the members of the Prince George's County Planning Board and the County Council that they thought recent ammendments to the General Plan of growth for the county were a "disaster." They agreed on most of the major issues involving transportation, public facilities and economic growth, but differed widely on the population factor in the plan.
Residents said they wanted to see a greater reduction in population densities with scattered and minimal growth. Builders and developers said they wanted to see more concentrated high-density growth with townhouse and clustered home development.
The General Plan was designed in 1964 as an overall growth document for the county, attempting through zoning recommendations to direct the development of the county to certain areas.
The plan was controversial then, and amendments to it, mandated by law as a way to periodically update the plan, have proved to be controversial now. The new plan is organized in three stages geared to estimated dgrowth, with the major constraint on growth being water and sewer capacity, according to Fred Starbuck, the chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee who presented the plan to the officials and residents before each hearing.
The short-term plan, projected for a population of 725,000, would widen the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, John Hanson Highway and Central Avenue, extend East-West Highway and complete the Addison road and New Carrollton Metor stations.
The intermediate plan, for 900,000 people, calls for the expansion of the Parkway, Western Branch and Piscataway Sewage Treatment facilities and the Charles County-Mattawoman plant. It would create centers of growth in Largo, Bowie New Town, Mattawoman and Laurel. Major transportation projects would include an intercounty connecting highway, a commuter line along the B & o Railway, and extension of I-295 south to the county line and a Metro line to Largo.
The last phase anticipates a population of 1.2 million people. It envisions a three-pronged Metro rail sytem,three satellite cities in Laurel, Bowie and Mattawoman and would increase the employment areas within the county. The intercounty connector would be extended to Rte. 50 and then to Mattawoman.
On Tuesday night the citizens and elected officials of Southern Maryland, especially those in the Oxon Hill-Fort Washington-Friendly area were out in full force - and in opposition. They were angry that extension of the Southwest Freeway (I-295) was included as a necessity for growth of the area.
"This area will become one massive concrete apron criss-crossed by roads," testified State Sen. Peter A. Bozick (D-Prince George's). "Southern Prince George's is the garden spot of the county and we would like to keep it this way."
"These new roads would serve not Prince George's residents, but Charles County residents," said Helen O'Leary of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council and a member of the Citizen Advisory Council (CAC).
The same complaints, but about different roads, were heard on Thursday.Of the proposed intercountry connector, or Outer Beltway, which residents oppose, Audrey Scott, mayor of Bowie, said, "All that road would do is increase the number of residents who work in Montgomery County. It would keep industry and business out of Prince George's."
Harry Ohlendorf of the Patuxent Wildlife Reseach U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Center was concerned when he saw that the intercounty connector was to built across the wildlife center. "We need a protected environment for our experiments," Ohlendorf said.
The environmental impact of the plan on the county was questioned by many residents, including several who had been members of the CAC. A number of them asked about the dangers of noise pollution and traffic congestion and the availability of water and public facilities that a long-stage growth plan would require. The CAC, in a separate document, produced a minority opinion discussing some of the environmental impacts they found and suggested it be added into the record of the report.
"I've put 2 1/2 years into this, and I'd like to hear how some of this information got into this document," said Lee Clayman, vice-chairman of the CAC, as the held up the printed plan. "We think, with the decrease and demand on our water supply, we can't handle more than 725,000 to 800,000 people in the county. (The plan's outer limits are 1.2 million.) We must limit our economic growth - not stop it but limit it.
"As a group, we've been used, we've been manipulated and we've been duped."
Kenneth H. Michael, who represented the Board of Realtors and was the only developer to testify at the first hearing, agreed with much of what Clayman and others said, but for different reasons.
"This plan is a conflict of reality, a conflict with sites already zoned and with zoning already developed in the master plans you yourselves (the council) agreed upon. There are credibility problem and mad traffic hassles. By denying development here, it will make people drive down further (to Charles County) to where it is. Then we'll get all the (traffic) problems and no taxes for it."
A representative of MCD Enterprises and Albert Turner, a developer of large landholdings throughout the country, said the plan proposed results that were "devastating. I am opposed, frustrated and surprised after years of work and investment in the county," wrote Russell Shipley, attorney for Turner.
While residents of Friendly were upset that the plan would double the potential population of their area, developers were concerned that the plan would reduce the population density in the county and would drive builders away from the county.
"The plan is a sprawl plan, for it deprives and discourages people to walk or bike to work," said William Beckett who represents Washington Gas Light, the principal builders in the Mattawoman project. "This is not for the highest and best use of the land."