Under state law, Maryland municipalities, such as New Carrollton, must follow certain steps to annex land.

The city council may propose annexation after receiving a written petition from residents of the area to be annexed. The petition requires signatures of at least 25 percent of the registered voters within the area and signatures of private property owners representating 25 percent of the assessed value of the property. These could overlap in meeting the signature requirements.

Public notice of the resolution, specifying a time and place for a public hearing, must be published at least four times at weekly intervals in a general circulation newspaper.

The hearing must be set for at least 15 days after the fourth publication of the notice and must be held in the city or in the area to be annexed.

Following the public hearing, the council may vote to annex the area, which cannot become effective for 45 days.

If the council approves the annexation, residents of "new" and "old" New Carrollton have 45 days to block the move with a petition for a referendum. To force a referendum the peition would have to contain the signatures of 20 percent of the registered voters in the annexed area and/or 20 percent of the registered voters in New Carrollton.

The city resolutions to annex would then be suspended until the referendum. The referendum must take place at least 15 days, but not more than 90 days, after a public notice stating where and when the referendum will be held. A simple majority is required for passage, and the annexation, if approved in a referendum, would be effective 14 days after the election. If the referendum fails, the annexation proposal is void.

The county council also can order a referendum on the city council resolution, to be held in the area to be annexed. An order setting the referendum must approved by a two-thirds vote of the Prince George's County Council.

Under a city law, New Carrollton may hold an advisory referendum as an additional step in the annexation process. If a petition for annexation is received from the residents of West Lanham Hills, the city expected to hold a citywide advisory referendum to gauge the sentiments of New Carrollton residents. The advisory referendum would not be legally binding.