The Prince George's County Council, after wrestling for more than five hours with a development plan that gives virtually every major project proposed in the county "priority" status, directed officials yesterday to pare back the list.
Council members, who are seeking to play a greater role in the county's economic development, also asked that a system be established in which developers pay the county for the privilege of the designation. They argued that the builders are able to market their projects easier if they can advertise them as being on a "priority" list and therefore the county should get some of those profits back.
Fern Piret, an aide to County Executive Parris Glendening, said after yesterday's session that the administration realizes that the priority list is a weighty one.
"There are too many of them on the list," she said of the projects included in the program the council discussed yesterday.
The new directives that the council asked for will be submitted later for approval.
The priority list is a compilation of 50 projects planned in the county. Once a project receives that designation, it is also eligible for "red letter" status, which is designed to cut the administrative work needed to secure permits for development. But council members complained at yesterday's meeting that the priority list and red letter status have come to mean little and are being used by corporations as a free marketing tool for which the county receives nothing.
"Hype," Councilman Richard J. Castaldi declared.
Council member Hilda Pemberton also asked Piret to compile statistics that would illustrate the link between development and the creation of new jobs.
"I want to see if that is in fact making a difference in terms of the number of people who are actually employed who are residents of Prince George's County," she said.
County officials said that Prince George's unemployment rate has dropped in recent years to 3.6 percent and compares favorably to state and national figures. However, they could not link that rise to what Glendening calls "an unprecedentedly high" volume of development activity.
Many council members, however, said they are unhappy about some of the development trends. Sue V. Mills, who represents the southern end of the county, complained in particular that few of the proposals on the priority list are in her district.
Don Spicer, Glendening's top development adviser, said that the county cannot steer projects to the southern part when market forces dictate that the white-collar firms and light industrial companies that the county seeks to attract are more interested in the Laurel and Bowie areas.
Other council members said that roads in the southern part of the county are inadequate and that resident activists there have resisted previous efforts to rezone land for projects such as Bay of the Americas.
"The Bay of the Americas is the best thing you have going on down there and you had to fight tooth and nail to get that," council member Floyd Wilson said.