The proposed new town community of Mattawoman in southern Prince George's County received a substantial boost from members of the County Council this week as they considered proposals for zoning and land use in the Mattawoman, Brandywine, Pleasant Springs and Cedarville areas.
The council, in a close 8 to 5 vote, rejected an attempt to put 2,600 acres owned by Washington Gas Light Company, the initiators of the new town proposal, into agricultural zoning, which would have delayed any large scale residential, industrial or commercial construction in the area for at least six years.
Instead, the council voted to take to a public hearing on June 27 proposals by Washington Gas Light Company that would allow the company to build a mixture of employment areas, an industrial park and townhouse, condominium and single-family residential housing.
This proposed development, combined with existing subdivisions and large as-yet-to-be developed parcels of land scattered throughout the area, would create, with the new Mattawoman Mall scheduled to begin construction next spring by J.C. Penney Co. and Montgomery Ward, the future town of Mattawoman with a project population of 27,000 people.
The question of just when the town - south of the intersection of Routes 301 and 5 - can begin development, however, was the key issue in this week's decision and will continue to be as the council moves toward final approval in July of the whole Mattawoman project.
"There is no question that in the future in this area there will be a new town," said council member William B. Amonett, a supporter of the proposal to delay development for the property. "But we have heard arguments that the roads will not take the traffic, and we have to address the problem of sewer capacity."
Prince George's County is currently in the midst of negotiating with Charles County officials for use of the new sewage treatment plant in the Mattawoman Basin.
"I certainly wouldn't want to tell someone to begin building a new town with a regional center and then says: 'Whoops, sorry, we don't have the sewer for you,'" Amonett added.
Council member Francis B. Francois told members that a recent petition drive to offer a charter amendment reducing future tax revenues could also seriously effect the project.
"We would be in a position of stopping 'people projects' like this one from coming into the county," Francois said. "We would have no money for new highways, new services. It would make more sense to delay the project five or six years than to cripple it now."
But council member Parris N. Glendening, supporter of advancing the new town comprehensive design concept, said the council "is not going to find assemblages of 2,500 acres every day.
"This is our chance to get the kind of balance we need for an integrated community. This will decide whether it will be a new town development or just more sprawl," Glendening said.
Washington Gas Light Company's attorney William Beckett said he "was encouraged" by the council's support of the basic concept and of the necessity to get the town project "on the road."
Beckett said that while he expects council proposals to lower some population densities within the project, he does not agree that sewage treatment and road problems will cause setbacks in the overall development.
"Amonett overstated the demands for commercial and industrial sewerage capacity," Beckett said. "You have to rember that consideration has not been given to the long staging process of this project."
Washington Gas Light has tracted with Albert Turner to build the four residential areas within the town, according to county planners. Turner, who developed Calverton, Kettering and New Carrollton into what one planner said "are sprawling subdivisions that have no resemblance to new towns," would begin the first construction "within two to three years" should the council approve the new town in July.
"It will still take five to six years before there is any semblance of a new town with all its elements," Beckett said.