In what was termed a "landmark decision," the Prince George's County Council this week established a parking authority that will allow the county to build publicly owned parking garages in the county.
The bill authorizes a five-member commission to manage the parking areas and to establish taxing districts and to levy taxes to pay for construction of the garages.
Council member William B. Amonett, who called the 9 to 0 passage of the bill a "landmark decision," said the parking authority would be a boon to development in many areas of the county that need parking facilities.
Council member Francis B. Francois agreed with Amonett, adding that the county's ability to provide parking space is "a tool to use in our development programs in older neighborhoods."
At a public hearing on the bill last week, several representatives from area communities supported the plan. "This could be used to solve Metro station problems," New Carrollton city administrator John Brunner told the council. "With the New Carrollton Metro site, it would ease some of the parking problems we anticipate and provide a stiumlus for Metro East development. It's a real benefit, and the county will find itself a revenue producer."
Parking authorities now exist in several Maryland areas, including Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Washington counties.
In other action, the council adopted a bill to tighten enforcement of nursing home regulation violations.
Designed to strengthen a nursing home licensing bill passed early this year, the new bill would permit the county to take civil actions against any nursing home that within a reasonable time has not corrected health violations found by the county health department. If a nursing home is still found to be in violation after an appeal to the county board of health, the county would be permitted to bring civil action necessary to enforce correction of the violations.
The council also adopted a bill restricting the number of unrelated people who can lease or sublease a residential, single-family home.
"Although the subject is controversial," council member Gerard McDonough said, "the controversy is legitimate. When you get up to eight unrelated people in a house, it is too much. That means there are eight cars in the street plus visitors and friends. This is not so much the crowding of the interior, but a crowding and overflowing effect on the community streets. This is no way attempts to restrict how a traditional family can live together in a house."
The bill reduces the number of unrelated people who can live together in a house from eight to five.
The council also heard from two residents in support of a bill restricting the display of books or magazines "depicting nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse."
The bill, according to council Chairman Francis White, is intended to restrict the availability of such materials to juveniles, but it also would "help in complaints from adults who feel offended and confronted with pictures that they'd rather not stand in the public and look at.
"The thrust of the this bill is to put (this material) under the counter if people want to sell these magazines."
Beth Trotto of Fort Washington said she supported the bill. "I could show you many books on display for children to see in bookstores," she said. "Some of them are very graphic, to say the least. It would be good if the books were put in a section away from the children."
Margaret Pesce of Bowie told the council she was concerned about the sales clerks as well. "Most of these people hire children 16 and older as clerks," she said. "What about their access to the material?"
White said the bill would restrict any merchant from displaying, selling or loaning certain material to persons under 18. Violators of the law would be subject to a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.