Prince George's County legislators today blocked a bill that would have let Takoma Park residents who live in Prince George's vote on whether to split off and become part of Montgomery County.
Instead, the delegates decided to set up a special task force to study the controversial issue this summer. The task force would include local government and assembly representatives from both counties, as well as residents of Takoma Park, which straddles the boundary of Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
Takoma Park has 16,200 residents, and about 4,900 of them live in Prince George's County.
Del. Frank B. Pesci Sr. (D-Prince George's), chairman of a bicounty group that handles bills affecting both Prince George's and Montgomery, asked for the study after the bill twice failed to get approval from his delegation. The votes at today's and last Friday's meetings of the delegation were 9 to 9, or three short of the 12 votes needed for approval.
Pesci said that he hoped the task force could study the proposed Takoma Park boundary referendum in a neutral setting and avoid the friction that has developed between the Prince George's delegation and Takoma Park residents.
Takoma Park Mayor Sam Abbott, who attended today's meeting, protested later that the county's lawmakers were unwilling to let the residents of his city vote "on where they want to live."
Abbott and many other Takoma Park officials long have complained that they pay more taxes to Prince George's than they get back in services. A straw poll of Takoma Park residents who live in Prince George's showed overwhelming support for making the entire city part of Montgomery County.
"We didn't really have any champion for the bill in the Prince George's delegation," said Abbott, who said that the county would lose $2 million a year in property taxes if Takoma Park pulled out.
Del. Gerard F. Devlin (D-Prince George's), one of those voting against the referendum measure, said he hoped that Takoma Park residents would not interpret the county's vote as a hostile action.
"It's a very hard thing to vote for even a partial dismemberment of a county," he said.