The Prince George's County Council gave final approval yesterday to development of 523 acres of the proposed Konterra minicity. It was the largest rezoning in the county's history, but still less than one-third of the zoning changes sought for the ambitious project in the northern end of the county.
Voting 6 to 2, the council removed the biggest stumbling block, a requirement it imposed in a preliminary vote last month that work must be under way on a four-lane highway linked to I-95 at Konterra before construction can start on 488 acres of the rezoned land.
Such a highway has been proposed as part of the controversial Inter-County Connector joining Montgomery and Prince George's counties. But no construction funds have been allocated, and a lawyer for Konterra developer Kingdon Gould Jr. contended that the highway condition was an "unsupportable hardship" that would delay development until at least 1994.
Instead, the council required that government funding for necessary highway improvements be "committed" at the time the property is subdivided, or that the roads be built by the developer. In addition, under the plan passed yesterday, "necessary transportation facilities must be in place" before the buildings can be occupied.
The council also gave final approval to a 35-acre tract, not subject to the highway conditions, to be used for office buildings.
Councilman Frank P. Casula, who represents the Laurel-Beltsville area where Konterra is located and who had proposed the original highway requirement, said yesterday the new condition would still assure that "adequate public facilities" are in place when the project opens.
Casula introduced the revised plan last week. It is essentially that requested by Konterra lawyer Glenn T. Harrell Jr.
But Walter H. Maloney Jr., a former county attorney who has been the most vocal critic of Konterra, said the new highway condition provides only illusory protection.
"These conditions can be reviewed and revised and the pressures will be such that they will be ignored" once the buildings have gone up, said Maloney, who is to receive a conservation award from the Patuxent Sierra Club tonight for his antidevelopment work. "This isn't zoning at all," he said. "It's just giving away 488 acres."
Voting with Casula for the amended plan were Council Chairman Floyd Wilson, and members William Amonett, Jo Ann T. Bell, Richard Castaldi and Hilda Pemberton. Council members Sue V. Mills and Anthony Cicoria voted against the measure, arguing that no county funds should be used in building necessary roads. Councilman James Herl was absent.
"I'm pleased," Harrell said after the vote. Although "both I and the client would have preferred that it be approved in toto as requested," he said, "the county has basically said keep going on it [Konterra]."
The eased highway condition, Harrell said, "was pivotal," freeing Konterra from being tied to the fate of the Inter-County Connector.
Harrell said Gould is still weighing whether to appeal the council's rejection of the bulk of the rezoning requests. In its vote last month, the council denied rezoning for 990 acres of "mixed-use" development, and told the County Planning Board to reconsider rezoning for 274 acres of town house development and 55 acres of office buildings after the adoption of a new comprehensive zoning plan for the region.
Maloney, in turn, said he would appeal the council's action "if we can find the money to go to court." The council's zoning decisions can be overturned in state court only if the court finds them clearly erroneous.