Despite objections from numerous residents and civic leaders, the Prince George's County Council approved a bill this week that allows a developer to build an 800-unit housing complex for seniors on land zoned for single-family homes.
The council voted, 6-1, on a text amendment to allow developer Daniel I. Colton to build the higher-density housing in Fort Washington without a special-exception review.
Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) was the lone opponent. Council members Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) and Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) were out of the room when the tally was taken.
Several residents voiced concerns that the council was using a text amendment -- a legislative tool that allows developers and property owners to secure zoning changes with little or no public participation, bypassing what are often lengthy negotiations and contentious hearings with neighborhood groups.
Some characterized the bill, proposed by council member Marilynn Bland (D-Clinton), as a sweetheart deal for Colton. Others said using text amendments to change permitted uses overrides the community's voice.
In Prince George's, the usual procedure for amending a zoning ordinance involves a series of quasi-judicial hearings before the county Planning Board and the council (sitting as the District Council). Property owners must prove that there was a mistake in the county's master plan or convince officials that neighborhood character changes justify rezoning.
Bland, who in the past has tried to slow growth in her district, said she believes the project, for active seniors 55 and older, will be in the best interest of the community.
Dernoga said that the bill was the "most outrageous text amendment" he has ever seen, and that its passage could lead to litigation. "There is a certain level we should not go beyond, and I believe this one does," he said.
10 Tickets to Paradise
Welcome back, Iris B. Boswell. Or should that be "Aloha, Iris"?
Boswell, who recently returned from Honolulu, knows that "aloha" means hello and goodbye in the Hawaiian islands.
Last week, The Post reported that nine county officials and staffers flew to Hawaii for the five-day National Association of Counties conference.
At press time, The Post was told that County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his chief of staff, Michael D. Herman, made the trip.
Boswell, deputy chief administrative officer for the Office of Finance, was not mentioned.
John Erzen, Johnson's spokesman, said he did not know that Boswell accompanied Johnson.
Prince George's paid for 10 people to go to Hawaii, while Montgomery County sent four, including County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D).
Council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly), who made the trip last week, said he set a couple of goals at the conference. He met each one. He was elected to the board of the National Association of Black County Officials as eastern regional director. He was also selected to be on the economic development steering committee for the association of counties. Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton), who was also on the trip, served on that committee last year.
Hosting Haitian Visitors
U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus was more than a federal jurist last week.
On Thursday, Titus hosted a 10-person group from Haiti, including lawyers, a judge and a journalist, at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt. The Haitians came to learn about the American justice system.
Titus set up a meeting with himself and other federal judges and arranged for the visitors to hear talks from an assistant U.S. attorney, a federal public defender, a representative from the U.S. Marshals Service and a Washington Post reporter. The visit was organized by the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and the Mississippi Consortium for International Development.