Two all-beef patties, special sauce, fries, tacos, salad, egg rolls and a doughnut, too . . . If that's your meat, you'll love the swarm of fast-food and family-style eateries along Route 1 and other Prince George's County streets. But some county council members have different tastes. They think so many carry-outs and steak houses spoil the county's looks and choke out other businesses. So they have just cooked up an ordinance to bar the doors.
The measure doesn't say "no more carry-outs," of course. That isn't how such rules are served up in suburbia. Instead, its rationale is to conserve water and get more jobs per gallon by barring businesses that use too much - over 50 gallons per day per fulltime-equivalent employee, to be precise. Fast-food outlets, you see, average 133 gallons per day, etc. Office buildings consume only around 19.
Well, the county does want more offices; that fits. But the county also invites hotels, whose water use per employee is very high. No problem; the rule permits businesses favored in the county growth plan. What about older neighborhoods that need a supermarket or drugstore (also above the average in water use)? There's an exemption for those, too, along with any other business that the council finds will serve "a demonstrated need" or improve job diversity.
That's really having it your way. A more candid rule would have barred businesses that dispense too many hamburgers, paper plates or plastic cups. But we won't quibble. The county could use a better smorgasbord of businesses. So for this month's best example for ingenious zoning, the Prince George's council takes the cake.