The Prince George's County Council voted overwhelmingly yesterday to form neighborhood commissions that will establish guidelines for desired development in selected areas of the county.
The boards, to be known as special review commissions, will be established in geographical areas that are unique for reasons such as architecture, landscaping or historical significance. The first two commissions were established yesterday in Piscataway and along the Enterprise Road corridor west of Bowie.
The commissions will have only an advisory role for planning officials and the County Council. But County Executive Parris Glendening, who proposed the legislation, has said he may seek to give the commissions stronger powers in the future.
Each commission will be made up of five residents and four developers appointed by Glendening, and each will have a nonvoting member representing the county planning department.
"This is a citizen's advisory commission," said council member Jo Ann T. Bell, who represents a district that includes the Enterprise Road area. "A group of people already living there with a standard of quality to their home life will be able to be part of what happens to open space in their neighborhood."
Glendening has said that the commissions will provide an extra layer of protection against poor construction and overdevelopment at a time when building is booming in the county. Nevertheless, some activists opposed to increased development argued against the formation of the commissions before the council yesterday.
Carmen Anderson, an official with the P.G. Civic Federation, said that she believes the formation of commissions to protect selected areas is "elitist" and that developers will simply avoid building in those spots and concentrate on other areas of the county.
A representative of the county chamber of commerce, Larry Taub, also argued against the idea, saying it would only foster parochial interests in selected areas and work to the detriment of the county as a whole. He said that citizen members of the commissions would be certain, for example, to oppose construction of major county thoroughfares in their neighborhoods.
But Bell said she believes the commissions will smooth relations between those with competing interests. "What this does," she said, "is put all of you -- citizens, planners, developers -- in one room to talk about development before anything happens."
Richard Castaldi cast the lone dissenting vote.
The council, meeting in a hectic final session before a six-week summer recess, also agreed to place on the November ballot a proposed charter amendment raising council members' salaries from $32,084 a year to $40,000. The measure was opposed only by council members Bell and Sue V. Mills.
Council members supporting the measure argued that they put in full-time hours in what is supposed to be a part-time job.
Another controversial bill approved yesterday requires skating rinks in the county to close at 1 a.m. and prohibits them from offering any nonskating event, including live music, without a special permit.
The bill, introduced by Mills and council Vice Chairwoman Hilda R. Pemberton, is aimed at preventing late night disturbances such as one that occurred in January after a concert at the Crystal Skate roller rink in Marlow Heights. One person was shot and another stabbed in that melee. The owner of that rink has since canceled big-band weekend concerts because security costs proved too high.
Staff writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.