Construction Restrictions Advance
A bill that imposes a stricter test on residential construction in Prince George's County moved out of committee yesterday.
The County Council's Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee voted 4 to 1 in favor of the bill, which would allow new homes to be built only if the police and fire departments meet specific benchmarks for staffing and response times.
Council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) said the bill is designed to ensure that the county's emergency services are able to handle the county's rapid growth.
Developers and members of the business community argued that the measure amounts to a moratorium on future building.
"It's a horribly irresponsible piece of legislation," said John Pyles, a developer in the county. Pyles said builders should not be held responsible for the county's inability to hire enough police officers and firefighters. "The county needs to do a review of what its needs are, not come up with shotgun pieces of legislation," Pyles said.
Council member David Harrington (D-Bladensburg) said the bill would not halt building. Instead, he said, it would impose standards that need to be met. "The bottom line is, should we build communities when we know police and fire times are inadequate?" he asked.
Student Dies After Being Hit by Car
A Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student died yesterday of injuries he suffered Tuesday when he was hit by a car before sunrise while walking to school, officials said.
Samuel Morris, 15, a 10th-grader, died at Suburban Hospital at 10:10 a.m. He was crossing the northbound lanes of Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda, just over the District line, at 6:28 a.m. Tuesday when he was hit by a 1995 Saturn, according to Montgomery County police.
"Samuel was new to our community and to Montgomery County," the school's acting principal, Sean Bulson, told students and their families in an e-mail. "Although he had only been a student here for a few weeks, I have learned that he had begun to develop friendships with many students. For those of you who knew Samuel, we ask that you remember and celebrate this friendship."
Police are investigating the accident, and no charges have been filed.
Sides Argue Redskins Pedestrian Ban
A Prince George's County administrative panel heard yesterday from a lawyer representing Washington Redskins fans who oppose a policy that blocks pedestrian access along a road to FedEx Field on game days.
No ruling was issued on the second day of testimony before the Board of Administrative Appeals. Chairman Raymond Krasnick told attorneys for both sides to submit a brief by Oct. 4 answering specific questions, after which the board will issue a ruling.
A Prince George's police officer and the acting director of the county Department of Public Works and Transportation testified yesterday that the pedestrian ban along Redskins Road was necessary to protect the safety of fans. Two pedestrians have been killed walking near the stadium, Cpl. Michael Rose said.
J.P. Szymkowicz, an attorney for the fans, argued that the public works department lacked the authority to close the sidewalks. He said the team and county officials need to explore other, less-restrictive methods, such as providing temporary fencing or a pedestrian overpass, before blocking pedestrian access.
Pesticide Use Around Schools Criticized
Maryland authorities have not done enough to comply with a state law regulating pesticide use around schools, according to reports released yesterday by a watchdog group.
The Maryland Pesticide Network, a coalition of groups including some representing doctors, nurses and teachers, said some schools continue to use pesticides as their first response to pest problems. A state law mandates that pesticides be used only when other nontoxic methods of pest control do not work.
In addition, the pesticide network found that manuals for pesticide use issued by the state Department of Agriculture do not follow the letter of the law.
At a news conference yesterday in Lutherville, members of the pesticide network said low doses of pesticides could cause respiratory problems in children, including asthma, and could lead to cancer.
Bags of Cement Dropped at Mixing Bowl
A truck dropped 15 bags of cement onto the highway at the Springfield interchange yesterday morning, clogging traffic into early afternoon, said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The bags -- each weighing 80 to 100 pounds -- were reported shortly after 7:30 a.m. by a local fire and rescue unit heading to another accident. The bags covered about 200 yards of the two-lane ramp heading from Interstate 95 to the Capital Beltway toward Tysons Corner, Morris said. The ramp was reopened shortly after noon. The truck did not stop, she said.
"Whoever spilled it or dropped it didn't realize the bags had fallen off or just carried on," Morris said.
A street sweeper was called in to clean up the mess. Traffic was backed up to Exit 158, about nine miles south of Springfield, until early afternoon, Morris said.
Panel to Look at Schooling for Offenders
The state Board of Education voted yesterday in Richmond to proceed with plans to require state agencies to set up methods of ensuring that children return to school after serving time in juvenile prisons and detention homes.
The decision comes eight years after the General Assembly passed a law requiring the board to officially spell out details of what schools and juvenile corrections officials must do to prepare incarcerated students to return to public school.
More than 1,000 children are in Virginia's juvenile prisons or detention homes.
Representatives of several state agencies have formed a task force to review existing reenrollment practices and to help shape the new measures.
"This shows that if you don't have judicial review of detentions, then the executive branch can take people who are essentially totally innocent . . . and hold on to him for three years."
-- Shayana Kadidal, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, on the impending release of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen held in solitary confinement as an "enemy combatant" for nearly three years but never charged with a crime. -- Page A1
Compiled from reports by staff writers David A. Fahrenthold, Darragh Johnson, Joshua Partlow, Ian Shapira, Ovetta Wiggins and Del Quentin Wilber and the Associated Press.