The Prince George's County Council has passed legislation requiring property sellers to reveal in writing at the time of sale any county or state plans to condemn the land for public use.
Council member Richard J. Castaldi said the legislation, similar to a Montgomery County law, requires buyers to sign a statement saying they are aware of their right to look at any existing government plans for the areas in which they are buying.
"When people buy property, they ought to know up front that they can look at the county master plan," Castaldi said. "That way, we can avoid misunderstandings.
"The buyer is protected because he or she knows what is going to happen to that property, and the seller is protected because the buyer can't turn around later and say, 'Hey, nobody ever told me they were going to put a highway in my back yard.' "
The bill, which passed unanimously earlier this month, was prompted by complaints from some Bowie residents who told Castaldi that workers from the state highway department had appeared in their back yards without warning to cut down trees for a road.
Castaldi said he discovered that plans to build the road had been in existence for years.
"What we had was a situation where people just didn't know that they could look at the plans for that area, so they had no idea the road was going to be built," he said.
Castaldi said he introduced a similar bill last year, but withdrew it to give the real estate industry an opportunity to respond. The county Board of Realtors has endorsed the bill, which takes effect Oct. 1.
Bowie Mayor Richard Logue, who pushed for the legislation, said it may help reduce friction that occurs between homeowners and commercial developers in rapidly expanding areas such as Bowie.
"People who are buying homes are often not aware, I'm sure, that huge, massive projects are going to be built just one or two miles away from them," he said.