Planning and Development Process

  1. The Zoning Ordinance
  2. The Planning Process
  3. The Zoning Process
  4. Other Aspects of the Development Approval Process
  5. Ten Year Water and Sewerage Plan
  6. Ten Year Solid Waste Plan
  7. Implementation Programs
  8. Other Regulatory Aspects of Policy Implementation

A. The Zoning Ordinance

The Zoning Ordinance, Subtitle 27 of the County Code, is adopted by the District Council for the purpose of governing the use and development of land. It defines various zoning categories, specifies the uses which are permitted, prohibited, and permitted subject to special exception review in each zone, and specifies detailed procedures governing a change in zoning. The Zoning Ordinance also sets forth procedures for various stages of development review, establishes standards for land use and the character of development, and provides procedures governing the planning process.

The Zoning Ordinance establishes a number of zones which permit either residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural uses, or a mixture of uses. Within each of these classes are numerous zones of various intensity. For example, there are seventeen separate “residential” zones, ranging in intensity from one unit per five acres, to 48 units per acre. Most of the more recently adopted zones encourage a mixture of residential and commercial uses, under certain circumstances and subject to specific standards and review. These are generally referred to as “floating zones”, while the traditional zones are commonly considered “euclidean zones.”

Euclidean Zones: Euclidean Zoning is characterized by a rather strict separation of land uses. Specific uses are permitted or prohibited subject to inflexible requirements regarding lot size, lot coverage, street frontage, building setback and building height. A Euclidean Zone may be sought by a property owner through a Zoning Map Amendment or applied by the Council through a Sectional Map Amendment. These processes are described later in this Chapter. Floating Zones: Floating Zones are intended to permit specialized development of land in accord with a comprehensive plan, and are subject to specific requirements which ensure compatibility with the adjoining properties. The approval of a floating zone depends upon conformance to the specific requirements of the individual zone, and development within these zones is subject to various stages of site plan review. The Zoning Ordinance includes three types of floating zones: Comprehensive Design (CDZ) Zones, the Mixed Use Transportation Oriented M-X-T) Zone, the Mixed-Use Community (M-X-C) Zone, the Mixed-Use Town Center (M-U-TC) Zone, the Mixed-Use Infill (M-U-I) Zone, the Development District Overlay (D-D-O) Zone and the Transit District Overlay (T-D-O) Zone.

a.) Comprehensive Design Zones are intended to encourage the imaginative utilization of land, expand diversity and choice, lessen public cost, and encourage the positive aspects of development. These zones are more flexible in the scope of permissible uses, land use regulations, residential densities, and building intensities. CDZs reduce public costs by allowing the provision of public benefit features, such as additional green area, public facilities, and recreational amenities, in exchange for density. They provide a developer with incentives to develop a better quality environment.

The plans for a CDZ are submitted in three phases. Approval of the Basic Plan makes the CDZ part of the Zoning Map. The Basic Plan is a general, schematic plan which includes the ranges of dwelling units and building intensity, and a general description of the proposed uses. The second phase, the Comprehensive Design Plan, establishes the general location, distribution, and type of dwelling units and other buildings. The final phase, the Specific Design Plan, shows the precise site plan, architectural plans, building exteriors, and detailed landscaping plans.

b.) The Mixed Use Zones encourage a variety of uses to be developed together in a single coordinated project. Land may only be placed in a Mixed-Use Zone (M-X-T, M-X-C, M-U-TC, M-U-I) if it is located where the applicable Master Plan recommends mixed land uses. As with the CDZs, the dimensions for the location and size of all buildings are determined on a case-by-case basis, and increases in density may be obtained through the provision of public benefit features. Development in a Mixed-Use Zone requires Detailed Site Plan Review.

c.) The Development District and Transit District Overlay Zones are intended to ensure that the development of land in the vicinity of Metrorail stations and other high-intensity development areas maximizes transit ridership, serves the economic and social goals of the area, and takes advantage of the unique development opportunities provided by mass transit and other public facilities. These zones are superimposed over other zones in a designated District and modifies certain requirements for development, such as permitted uses, parking, and sign requirements, within the underlying zones. The D-D-O and T-D-O Zone require that a District Development Plan be approved by the Council and that all development be subject to site plan approval by the Planning Board.

Other Regulations: New regulations have been adopted by the Council that are related to the Zoning Ordinance and have a significant impact on the development process. These regulations are either incorporated into the Zoning Ordinance or are governed by manuals that have been adopted by reference in the Ordinance.

a.) Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Overlay Zones

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area in Prince George's County, which extends along the Patuxent, Potomac, and Anacostia rivers, was established by the Council in 1988 with the creation of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Overlay Zones. In general, this area includes the tidal waters, tidal wetlands, and all land within 1,000 feet of the mean high tide line. Within the Critical Area Overlay Zones, lands are classified into one of three overlay zones: Intense Development, Limited Development, or Resource Conservation. Development within these zones is regulated by sections of the Zoning Ordinance addressing the type and intensity of uses permitted, and by the adopted Conservation Manual.

b.) Woodland Conservation Requirements

In 1989 the Council amended the Zoning Ordinance to implement provisions of the Woodland Conservation and Tree Preservation Policy Document. This document sets forth requirements for the protection of woodland resources as a component of the development process. Developers are required to provide a detailed accounting of trees on proposed development sites, and through the use of a Tree Conservation Plan approved by the M-NCPPC, preserve an appropriate amount of woodland habitat.

c.) Landscape Manual

In 1989 the Council also approved legislation that removed sections of the Zoning Ordinance that addressed landscaping, buffering, and screening, and consolidated them in the Landscape Manual. This document, which is adopted in the Ordinance by reference, sets forth new regulations for all private and public development in Prince George's County. It establishes minimum mandatory standards, provides options which allow greater freedom of design, and establishes a procedure for approval of alternative methods of compliance with the Manual's standards.

Text Amendments: The Zoning Ordinance is subject to review and amendment solely by the District Council, under procedures set forth in Part 3 of the Ordinance. The Council may amend the text of the Ordinance to create new zones, restrict or expand uses permitted in existing zones, impose new requirements for land development, accommodate new or unforeseen uses, clarify the intent of existing provisions of the Ordinance, or improve the development review process. Some text amendments have relatively narrow application, while others are of far-reaching significance.

A Zoning Ordinance text amendment may be requested by a Council Member, the Planning Board, or an interested individual or organization. Every amendment must be sponsored by a Council Member. Amending the Zoning Ordinance is a legislative proceeding, subject to the normal legislative process (see Chapter II). But unlike other bills, Zoning Ordinance amendments are not subject to Executive approval or veto.

B. The Planning Process

The purpose of planning in Prince George's County is to provide guidance for the future physical development of the county. State law places the responsibility for developing the county's plans in The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

However, all plans must be approved by the Prince George's County Council before they are legally in effect.

Types of Plans and their Characteristics

There are four types of plans in Prince George's County. These are the General Plan and Biennial Growth Policy Plan (which is countywide in scope), area master plans and subregional plans (which pertain to particular geographical areas within the county), small area or sector plans (which address special issues in geographic areas that are smaller than a planning area), and functional plans (which are countywide in scope, but pertain to a single type of service or activity, such as schools, transportation, or public safety. Each is described below.

a.) The General Plan and Biennial Growth Policy Plan

Prince George's County has adopted three countywide general plans, one in 1964, another in 1982 and, as an interim general plan, the Biennial Growth Policy Plan, adopted in November 2000. The 1964 General Plan made general recommendations for the location, type and intensities of different land uses (residential, commercial and employment). The 1982 General Plan, on the other hand, concentrated on development policies (instead of delineating specific land uses) with decisions about the location and intensity of development being left to area master plans.

In 1998, the Prince George's County Council produced a report entitled Managing Growth in the 21st Century: A Smart Growth Proposal for Prince George's County. The Council found that the 1982 General Plan was no longer adequate to guide future county growth and development. In particular, the council cited the lack of effective plan implementation, the loss of countywide perspective and the emphasis on new development as opposed to the protection and revitalization of older, established areas.

In order to address these and other development-related issues, the council established a 53-member, broad-based advisory group named Commission 2000 to make recommendations concerning the county's future growth and development. After 18 months of study and deliberations over the course of nearly 40 meetings, Commission 2000 published a draft report of its consensus recommendations. The County Council held a public hearing, considered testimony, made amendments and adopted the Commission's findings as the Biennial Growth Policy Plan and interim general plan.

The Biennial Growth Policy Plan is a comprehensive smart growth initiative that utilizes a system of growth tiers, corridors and centers to guide future land use and development in Prince George's County. The three tiers encompass the developed, developing and rural areas of the county. The plan also recommends policy overlays to encourage revitalization of older communities and to protect environmental resources. These tiers, centers, corridors and overlays provide the basis for both managing the pace of development and for the type of development that is planned for the future.

While serving as an interim general plan, the Biennial Growth Policy Plan also recognizes the need to prepare more detailed, countywide policy guidance for future development. Therefore, the plan recommends that the General Plan be updated to more fully reflect the policies set forth in the Biennial Growth Policy Plan. Preparation of a new General Plan is now underway.

b.) Area Master Plans

For planning purposes, Prince George's County has been divided into seven subregions which are further divided into planning areas. There are a total of 36 planning areas in the County. Each planning area is a fairly cohesive district that is typically bounded by a major highway, political boundary and/or a natural border such as a stream valley. Area master plans may be prepared for an individual planning area, group of planning areas or entire subregions.

Area master plans consist of a plan map along with supporting data, text and other maps. They provide specific recommendations on the environment, historic preservation, living areas and housing, commercial areas, employment areas, urban design, circulation and transportation (including highways and mass transit), and public facilities. Where appropriate, some plans may cover additional issues such as sand and gravel mining or neighborhood revitalization.

Area master plans also address the adequacy of public facilities. Land use proposals are analyzed for their impact on schools, police, fire, rescue, libraries, health, parks and trails. Recommendations are then made to correct any projected deficiencies of these public services and assets. In addition, a study is undertaken of the balance between the proposed land uses and the proposed transportation system. This assists in preventing the overzoning of an area with high traffic-generating uses.

The master plans are the final authority on highway and mass transit right-of-way land reservations. The planned land uses become the basis for decisions on where new schools, fire stations and other public facilities will be needed in the future. Area master plans are also used to guide decisions on zoning change, special exception and subdivision applications. Finally, probably the most important function of the area master plans is that they are used as the basis for comprehensive rezoning. The result of the comprehensive rezoning process is a new zoning map for the subject area which is called a sectional map amendment.

(c) Small Area Plans

In some instances it is desirable to prepare a master plan for an area that is smaller than a planning area or that consists only of portions of several adjacent planning areas. This typically occurs because of some special situation that requires a plan for a limited geographic area. For example, the construction of the Metrorail system has changed the expected land uses in the vicinity of the Metrorail stations. The Planning Board has responded by preparing a number of transit district development plans. These plans establish land use and zoning for properties within approximately a one-half mile radius of the stations.

Another type of small area plan is the sector plan. A sector plan often involves a specific land use evaluation for a portion of major corridors or economically-viable focus areas such as town centers or highway intersections.

d.) Functional Plans

There are also a number of plans which comprehensively cover a specific topic for the entire County. These are referred to as functional plans. The major functional plans are:

(i) Master Plan of Transportation - The Master Plan of Transportation which was approved by the Council in 1982 and amended by subsequently approved master plans, is a comprehensive document which contains the transportation facility recommendations needed to support the policies in the General Plan and area master plans.

(ii) Countywide Trails Plan -Approved in July 1975, this documents seeks to establish a network of pedestrian, equestrian, and bicycle trails for the county. An amendment of this plan, aimed at expanding the equestrian trail system, was approved in 1984. This plan has been further amended by subsequently approved area master plans.

(iii) Public Safety Master Plan - Approved in July 1990, this document addresses the facility needs of the Police and Fire Departments, the Sheriff's Office, the Corrections Department, and the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

(iv) Historic Sites and Districts Plan - Approved in 1981, the Historic Sites and Districts Plan is aimed at preserving the county's heritage. In addition to recommending preservation goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria, the plan identifies more than 500 historic resources. Pursuant to the recommendations of the plan, an Historic Preservation Commission was established to oversee preservation of the county's historic resources, and to review and make recommendations on development proposals which affect historic sites.

(v) The Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan and the Comprehensive Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan are like functional plans, but they are prepared by the county government (rather than the M-NCPPC) under separate State legislation.

Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan - Since 1970, the County has been required to prepare and annually update a 10-year plan and program for the extension of water and sewer service. The Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan is the central County policy statement as to where, when and at what rate growth can be expected to occur. The plan has been used as a major guide to master plan staging and is considered in zoning decisions and the granting of subdivision approvals. The plan is also the major guide to the programming of other public facilities in the Capital Improvement Program, particularly with respect to providing services to new development.

Comprehensive Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan - Initiated in 1974 in response to State regulations, this plan sets forth a comprehensive program designed to meet the county's present and future solid waste disposal requirements. The goal of the plan is to provide the best available service while protecting public health and preventing environmental pollution. Encompassing the entire county, the plan deals with current and anticipated sources of solid waste, disposal facilities and sites, and economies of scale.

Plan Preparation

The Prince George's County Zoning Ordinance stipulates a process which must be followed in preparing the General Plan, area master plans, small area plans and functional plans. The steps in this process are summarized below. (Some of these steps are not required for two types of small area plans, specifically minor public facility amendments and transit district development plans.) Currently, sectional map amendments (comprehensive rezonings of the subject area) are undertaken in conjunction with the preparation of area master plans and small area plans and follow this same procedural sequence:

(a) Initiation: The District Council authorizes the Planning Board to prepare a plan when it approves the Planning Department's annual work program. The board then directs staff to proceed.

(b) Public Forum: The first public involvement in the plan preparation process occurs at a public forum. The purposes of the forum are to notify the community that a plan is underway, encourage citizen participation and solicit issues that the plan should address. A notification is sent to all property owners in the planning area advising them of the forum and inviting public testimony. Notice is also given in the County's newspapers of record. A background information brochure, which also contains issues proposed for study, is made available to the public in advance of the forum.

(c) Goals, Concepts and Guidelines: Following the public forum, the Planning Board submits goals, concepts and guidelines to the District Council for approval and authorization to proceed with the plan.

(d) Public Participation Program: Also following the public forum, the Planning Board prepares a public participation program for approval by the District Council. The program must encourage a balance of participation by the area's citizens and businesses affected by the plan, to include property owners, area civic associations, local business groups, interest groups, government agencies and any municipality situated within the area covered by the plan. The program also includes techniques to keep the larger affected community informed.

(e) Preparation of a Preliminary (Draft) Plan: Preparation of the preliminary plan is the responsibility of Planning Board staff. Plans are developed through a team effort, combining the talents of professionals with expertise in such areas as land use, transportation, environmental and public facilities planning. The goals, concepts and guidelines approved by the District Council provide the general framework that guides staff during the process. Staff considers all testimony presented at the public forum, as well as feedback from the public which arises from the public participation program. Federal, State, County and municipal agencies whose current or future activities may impact the planning area are also involved.

(f) Public Hearing: The District Council and the Planning Board must conduct at least one joint public hearing on the preliminary plan. The purpose of the public hearing is to allow citizens and other interested parties an opportunity to offer their recommendations and suggestions before the plan is finalized.

Before publishing the preliminary plan for public hearing, the Planning Board must submit the draft text to the District Council and County Executive to determine if there are any inconsistencies between the plan proposals and existing County and State policies relating to public facility programming. Any inconsistencies must be eliminated or accommodated prior to release of the plan.

Following this review by the council and executive, the preliminary plan is printed. The plans are then made available to the public, free of charge, at distribution points in the community. Notice of the hearing is mailed to all property owners in the planning area. The hearing is also advertised in the County's newspapers of record.

All written and oral testimony and any supporting evidence presented at the hearing becomes part of the official record. The record is typically, but not necessarily, kept open for a period of time (not to exceed 15 calendar days) after the hearing. Additional materials may be submitted during this period.

(g) Adoption by the Planning Board: After the close of the public hearing record, the Planning Department staff prepares and transmits an analysis of the testimony to the Planning Board. The Planning Board then considers the testimony, makes any changes which it deems fit and adopts the plan. The adopted plan and analysis of testimony are then transmitted to the District Council.

(h) Additional Public Hearing: The District Council must hold an additional public hearing if it wishes to make changes to the adopted plan. The notification and advertising requirements are the same as for the original hearing.

(i) Final Action by the District Council: Following receipt of the adopted plan or after the additional public hearing, if held, the council either: (1) approves the adopted plan as submitted by the Planning Board, (2) approves the plan with amendments, or (3) disapproves the plan and returns it to the Planning Board for further consideration. Adopted and approved plans are published and filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The adopted and approved plan then represents County policy until amended.

C. The Zoning Process

(1) Background

Zoning is the legal power of government to regulate the use of private property for the purpose of protecting public health, safety and welfare. It is one of the police powers of the State of Maryland. In Prince George's County, this power is delegated to and exercised by the County Council, sitting as the District Council. The link between planning and zoning is critical. Legally defensible zoning controls are based upon sound planning principles as set forth in adopted and approved plans. Zoning based upon arbitrary opinion or the pressures of vested interests is neither legal nor appropriate.

The Prince George's County Zoning Ordinance is part of the County Code. It describes the various zones, lists the uses permitted in each zone, specifies densities and sets forth the procedures to change the zones. The ordinance establishes standards for the location of structures, building heights, setback and other area requirements. Zoning categories allow residential, commercial or industrial uses at varying densities or intensities. Some of the more recently adopted zones permit a mix of compatible land uses, subject to certain standards.

(2) Types of Zones

Two types of zones are in use in Prince George's County conventional zones and floating zones. There is a large variety of individual zoning classifications within each of these types. Most properties are in conventional zones. However, an increasing number of properties are being placed in floating zones. Each of these types of zones is described below.

(a) Conventional (Euclidean) Zones: Conventional zones fall into three categories: residential, commercial and industrial. In a conventional zone, permitted land uses and densities are specifically listed. Each land use is permitted subject to strict requirements regarding lot size, lot coverage, street frontage, building setbacks and height limits.

There is a broad spectrum of residential zones covering all types of residential development from single-family detached to high-rise apartments. Densities range from a maximum of 1 dwelling unit per 20 acres at one end of the spectrum to 48+ dwelling units per acre at the other.

The commercial zones provide for development which is either predominantly retail, office or service-commercial in nature. There are also specialized commercial zones which provide for such things as upscale regional malls or small neighborhood commercial centers.

The industrial zones provide for both light and heavy industrial areas as well as for planned employment parks in campus-like settings. There are also two specialized industrial zones.

(b) Floating Zones

The purpose of floating zones is to encourage creativity of design and permit specialized land development. Accordingly, the number of uses allowed is quite broad, but proposals are subject to an in-depth review process. Certain development regulations, such as lot size and coverage, are not specified in the Zoning Ordinance and are instead established during the review process. Floating zones include comprehensive design, mixed use/planned community and overlay zones:

(c) Comprehensive Design Zones

Comprehensive design zones differ from conventional zones in that a mix of land uses and/or densities is permitted. Comprehensive design zones also allow an increase in residential density or commercial intensity, in exchange for the provision of public benefit features, such as a community park or neighborhood bike path, that improve the quality of the project.

In conventional zones, development must conform to strict regulations regarding the location, height and density of proposed structures. In a comprehensive design zone, these and other development regulations are approved on a case-by-case basis. However, once approved, these regulations carry the full force of law and are not easily changed.

Development proposals in a comprehensive design zone are approved via a three-phase review process:

(i) Phase 1 (Basic Plan): Sets forth proposed land uses and general land use relationships, including the approximate number of dwelling units and building intensity. A determination must be made that public facilities are adequate to serve the proposed development.

 

(ii) Phase II (Comprehensive Design Plan): Refines the approved basic plan. Establishes the general location, distribution, and size of proposed structures and includes various standards and guidelines. Proposed public benefit features are described, and a determination must be made that the development will not be an unreasonable burden on public facilities.

 

(iii) Phase III (Specific Design Plan): A precise site plan that includes architectural plans, exterior building elevations and detailed landscaping plans. A determination must also be made that the development will be adequately served by public facilities.

(d) Mixed-Use and Planned Community Zones

There are several mixed-use/planned community zones. Each zone contains its own unique regulations which are designed to provide for a variety of compatible uses and create a particular character of development. The M-X-T Zone is transportation-oriented, intended to create a 24-hour environment in the immediate vicinity of major transportation facilities.

The M-X-C Zone encourages a balanced mix of residential, commercial, recreational and public uses. It also requires the finding that transportation facilities will be adequate to carry anticipated traffic. The M-U-TC Zone promotes redevelopment, preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings in older commercial areas. The R-P-C Zone accommodates large-scale community development such as found in Greenbelt and Marlton. The R-M-H Zone provides for mobile home communities.

(e) Overlay Zones

Overlay zones are superimposed over existing zoning classifications in a designated area and are used to modify certain requirements of the underlying zones, such as permitted uses, parking regulations, sign requirements and the location and height of buildings. There are four types of overlay zones:

(i) The Transit District Overlay Zone encourages intensive land development in the vicinity of Metro stations to maximize transit ridership and reduce automobile use. It is intended to take advantage of the unique development opportunities provided by mass transit and other public facilities. It is used to implement a transit district development plan, and development is subject to site plan approval.

(ii) The Development District Overlay Zone is used to ensure that development meets the goals established in a master plan, master plan amendment or sector plan. Development districts may be designated for town centers, Metro areas, commercial corridors, employment centers, revitalization areas, historic areas and other special areas as identified in approved plans. Development is subject to site plan approval.

(iii) The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Overlay Zone protects environmentally sensitive areas. It ensures that development conforms with State and County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area policies to preserve and enhance the quality of water entering the Chesapeake Bay, protect wildlife resources and enhance recreational opportunities. Concurrently with or prior to approval of development in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, a conservation plan and agreement must be approved. Development is subject to both the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and the regulations set forth in the Prince George's County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program Conservation Manual.

(iv) The Revitalization Overlay Zone provides a mechanism for the county to delegate full authority to local municipalities to approve departures from parking, landscaping and sign standards. In addition, limited authority is delegated for the approval of variances from building setbacks, lot coverage, yards and other dimensional requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

3. REZONING

Changes to existing zones occur either through zoning map amendments or sectional map amendments. Zoning map amendments are requested by a property owner for a single parcel of land, whereas sectional map amendments are initiated by the District Council and cover a designated area. The District Council has full authority and responsibility for all rezoning decisions.

(a) Zoning Map Amendments

Before approving a change to a conventional zone, the District Council must determine that there has either been a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood or that a mistake was made either in the original zoning or the most recent sectional map amendment. The change or mistake finding does not apply to floating zones. Approval of a floating zone depends upon demonstrating conformance with master plan recommendations, the provision of adequate public facilities and market support for retail-commercial development.

Applications for zoning map amendments are processed as follows:

(i) Filing: Applications are filed with the Development Review Division of the M-NCPPC Planning Department. Individuals may submit applications between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on any business day. The offices are located on the 4th floor of the County Administration Building. Any person may review and copy an application and supporting documents. Following staff's acceptance of the application, a notification is sent to adjoining property owners advising them of the pending request. Any individual may become a person of record by requesting such in writing or by testifying before the Zoning Hearing Examiner. Persons of record are notified of all upcoming hearings and receive copies of the technical staff report and the results of all decisions made with regard to the application.

(ii) Technical Staff Report: The M-NCPPC Planning Department staff analyzes the request and prepares a technical staff report recommending approval, approval with conditions, or denial. The report is submitted to the Planning Board, Zoning Hearing Examiner, District Council, all persons of record and any interested person requesting a copy.

(iii) Planning Board Review and Action: Zoning Map Amendment applications are eligible for review by the Planning Board during its regularly scheduled Thursday meetings. A public hearing before the Planning Board is not mandatory for these cases. At the request of an interested party, or upon its own motion, the Planning Board may decide, by majority vote, to hold a public hearing. If the Planning Board does not vote to hear the case, the staff recommendation will immediately be forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Examiner. If the Planning Board votes to hear the case, it will be set in for a hearing on a future agenda date and notice will be given of the date and time. At the hearing, the applicant and any interested persons may testify before the Planning Board in response to the technical staff report. Testimony may be oral or written. All testimony becomes part of the official record that will be forwarded to the District Council. The board may concur with the technical staff report or make a different recommendation. The Planning Board recommendation is provided in the form of a resolution and is transmitted to the Zoning Hearing Examiner and District Council, along with copies of all other official record materials.

(iv) Notice of Public Hearing: The Zoning Hearing Examiner establishes the hearing schedule for zoning cases. The examiner sends hearing notices to persons of record and publishes the notices in the County's newspapers of record. Also, the M-NCPPC Planning Department staff posts the property with a sign indicating the time and place of the hearing.

(v) Public Hearing: The Zoning Hearing Examiner conducts the official County zoning hearings. All materials and testimony presented before the examiner constitute the official record in the case. This includes the Planning Board resolution, the technical staff report and all other materials forwarded by the Planning Board. After the hearing, all persons of record receive a written decision which contains findings of facts, conclusions of law and the recommended action. The hearing examiner's decision is forwarded to the District Council.

(vi) Oral Argument: Within 30 days after the filing of the Zoning Hearing Examiner's decision with the District Council, any person of record or the People's Zoning Counsel may file exceptions to any portion of the decision and request oral argument before the District Council. Oral argument allows persons of record to speak to the District Council about the case. Only issues contained in the official record may be discussed during oral argument.

(vii) District Council Action: The District Council may (1) grant the proposed rezoning; (2) grant a less intensive zone for all or part of the property; (3) deny the application; (4) return the application to the hearing examiner or Planning Board for further evidence; (5) dismiss the application; or (6) allow it to be withdrawn. Notice of action taken by the District Council is transmitted to persons of record. District Council actions may be appealed to the Circuit Court.

(viii) Conditional Zoning: In approving any individual zoning map amendment, the District Council may adopt reasonable requirements and safeguards known as conditions, that are designed to protect the neighboring area from adverse effects which might result from the rezoning or to enhance the quality of the new development. The applicant must accept or reject the zoning classification as conditionally approved. If the conditions are rejected, the zoning map amendment is voided and the property reverts to the prior zone classification.

(b) Comprehensive Rezoning (Sectional Map Amendments)

Unlike zoning map amendments, comprehensive rezonings are not undertaken for individual properties. Instead, all of the zoning within an entire geographic area, such as a subregion or planning area, is examined. The result of the comprehensive rezoning process is a new zoning map for the subject area which is called a sectional map amendment.

The purposes of comprehensive rezoning are: a) to provide for a systematic review of zoning and land use and how they conform to the principles of orderly comprehensive land use planning, staged development and planned public facilities; b) to limit piecemeal rezoning; and c) to limit the zoning map amendment cases heard by the Zoning Hearing Examiner.

Typically, the comprehensive rezoning process results in a change of zoning for only some of the properties in the subject area. The remaining properties are left in their previous zones either because they are already developed or because a zoning change is not deemed appropriate. The Zoning Ordinance contains some limitations on the ability to rezone and on the zones which may be used.

The Zoning Ordinance stipulates three procedures which may be followed in preparing sectional map amendments. The procedure most commonly used today is preparation of a sectional map amendment concurrent with preparation of an area master plan. In this instance, a zoning proposal is prepared as one of the area master plan elements and is subject to public hearing along with the area master plan. At the conclusion of the process, the District Council approves both the area master plan and the sectional map amendment, simultaneously.

(c) Special Exceptions

The Zoning Ordinance permits certain uses that would not otherwise be allowed in a particular zone through grant of a special exception. The uses which may be allowed by special exception are listed in the Zoning Ordinance on a zone-by-zone basis. Special exception applications may be considered only for those uses listed as an allowable special exception under that zone.

Applications for special exception uses require a site plan showing all proposed improvements. These applications are reviewed to ensure that the proposed use is compatible with surrounding uses and the general neighborhood. Many special exceptions must also conform with their own unique set of requirements as stipulated in the Zoning Ordinance. Once approved, the property must be developed in accordance with the approved site plan. Processing procedures are similar to those described for individual zoning map amendments. However, in the case of a special exception, the Zoning Hearing Examiner is empowered to make the final decision unless a person of record appeals the case to the District Council.

(d) Variances

A variance is a mechanism to obtain relief from the strict application of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, such as building height, building setback and yard requirements. Variances are appropriate in situations where strict conformance would result in unusual practical difficulties or undue hardship for the owner of the property. For example, a lot might be so narrow as to make it impossible to observe the side yard setback requirements when building a home. The Board of Appeals is authorized to grant variances, except in instances where that authority is specifically reserved for the Planning Board and District Council. State law also permits the District Council to delegate authority to grant variances to municipal governments. As of this writing, this authority has been granted to the cities of Bowie, College Park and Greenbelt.

(e) Departures

A departure grants relief from the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance requirements for: (1) the design of parking and loading facilities, (2) the number of parking and loading spaces required, (3) sign regulations and (4) landscaping, buffering and screening requirements of the Landscape Manual. The Planning Board is authorized to grant departures. State law also permits the District Council to delegate authority to grant departures to municipal governments. As of this writing, this authority has been granted to the cities of Bowie, College Park and Greenbelt.

(f) Nonconforming Uses and Structures

There are some land uses and/or structures in existence which do not meet the current requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. These uses or structures are termed nonconforming. This has occurred in a variety of ways. In some cases, a land use was established prior to the initial zoning of the property. In other cases, a use was once permitted in a zone but has subsequently been disallowed or allowed only by a special exception. Also, there are some structures that were originally built according to all of the parking, setback, sign, etc., requirements of the ordinance but no longer meet these requirements because of a subsequent change in the regulations. The nonconforming uses and structures are considered to be grandfathered and allowed to remain as long as the use has never ceased for a period longer than 180 days. In certain circumstances, uses may be required to be recertified. Any alteration, enlargement, extension or reconstruction of a nonconforming use requires approval of a special exception.

(g) Text Amendments

The Zoning Ordinance is subject to review and amendment solely by the District Council, which may amend the text to create new zones or repeal zones. This process is called a text amendment. Similarly, it may add permitted uses to a zone, eliminate permitted uses from a zone or require the grant of a special exception. Indeed, any of the regulations may be changed through the text amendment process. A text amendment may be requested by the County Executive, the Planning Board or any interested individual or organization. In some instances, the District Council may initiate an amendment itself. Amending the Zoning Ordinance is a legislative process requiring a public hearing and approval by a majority of the council.

4. Development Review

The final steps in the land development process consist of the review and approval of subdivision plats and of various types of permits. In some cases, review and approval of site plans are also required. These procedures are designed to ensure that new development is compatible with approved master plans, meets county requirements and enhances the quality of life in the county.

(a) Subdivision

The Subdivision Regulations, which are part of the Prince George's County Code, control the subdivision of land for purposes of sale or development. Subdivisions are controlled through a process known as platting. A plat is a map of a parcel of land which shows features such as lot lines, streets, stormwater management facilities, easements, topography and building restriction lines.

(b) Preliminary Plats

The first step in the platting process consists of reviewing a preliminary plat. One of the major purposes of reviewing preliminary plats is to ensure that adequate public facilities are available, or will be available in the foreseeable future, to serve the proposed development. Determination of adequacy is made for schools, fire and rescue facilities, police facilities and public roads. The Planning Board determines adequacy based on an analysis of information generated by staff or submitted by the applicant or by the agencies responsible for building required facilities or supplying the necessary services. These agencies include the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Department of Public Works and Transportation, Board of Education, State Highway Administration, Fire Department, Police Department and Health Department. If the necessary County-financed fire and rescue, police and transportation facilities are not existing, they must be planned for construction under the adopted Six-Year Capital Improvement Program. There is also an adequacy test for schools that is based upon regulations contained in the Subdivision Regulations. Public water and sewer facilities are considered adequate if the subdivision is located within the appropriate service area, in accordance with the Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan.

Preliminary plats are also reviewed for environmental issues, such as woodland conservation and stormwater management; proper legal description of lots; and the general design of the subdivision including access, circulation and lotting pattern. Certain residential subdivisions are required to provide land for public parks, recreational facilities or money to supplement existing facilities. The majority of preliminary plats are heard at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Board. However, certain residential subdivisions containing four or fewer lots may be approved by the Planning Director. These are known as minor subdivisions.

There are three additional types of plats in the subdivision process. The Cluster Preliminary Plat is an optional method of design allowed in certain residential zones. The Final Plat contains all the pertinent engineering data, and the Record Plat is recorded in the land records for the county, establishing the actual subdivision of the property.

In instances, of extraordinary hardship or practical difficulties the Planning Board may grant Variations from the strict application of the Subdivision Regulations. In addition, the Vacation (abandonment) of a recorded subdivision may be approved upon petition by the owner of the property.

(c) Site Plan Review

Some development applications are subject to a special review process called site plan review. In most cases, site plan review is triggered by a Zoning Ordinance requirement attached to a particular zone or use, such as residential cluster subdivisions, townhouses, multifamily housing, day care centers, and employment parks in the I-3 Zone. Site plan review may also be required as a condition of preliminary plats, special exception or zoning map amendment approval. This process involves an in-depth review of the site plan and is based primarily on design issues, such as buffering, landscaping, grading and architecture. The plan must conform to the design guidelines stipulated in the Zoning Ordinance. These guidelines are performance standards for the design of parking, loading and circulation; lighting; views; green area; site and streetscape amenities; grading; service areas; public spaces; and in some cases, architecture.

The Planning Board is required to hold a public hearing on the site plan within 70 days of the time it is accepted, unless the applicant agrees to a waiver. Properties are posted with a sign advertising the hearing and all adjoining property owners are notified by mail. Any interested person may speak on the proposal at the hearing. M-NCPPC staff prepares a report and makes a recommendation to the Planning Board. The Planning Board may approve, approve with conditions, or deny the plan.

The board's decision may be appealed to the District Council by any party of record or the District Council may, on its own motion, choose to review the board's decision. The council will then hold a public hearing and affirm, reverse or modify the board's decision.

There are two types of site plans which are subject to the site plan review process:

(d) Conceptual Site Plans

Conceptual site plans show basic relationships among the proposed uses and illustrate approximate locations of structures, parking areas, streets, site access, open space and other major physical features. They may be somewhat detailed, or may depict large areas connected with arrows or other graphic symbols. Conceptual site plans must be approved before a preliminary plat of subdivision may be approved. They are valid indefinitely.

(e) Detailed Site Plans

Detailed site plans show the specific location and design of all buildings and structures, streets, parking lots, open spaces, landscaping, grading and other physical features. Whereas conceptual site plans are schematic and general, the detailed site plans are very specific and contain the same level of site information that is necessary to obtain a permit. Like conceptual site plans, the detailed site plans must conform to the site design guidelines. They must also conform to the preceding conceptual site plan, if one was required, and the preliminary plat. A detailed site plan is valid for three years. No building permits can be issued until the detailed site plan has been approved.

In addition to the regular detailed site plans described above, there is a detailed site plan for infrastructure which shows grading, stormwater management, tree conservation areas, sediment and erosion control, and utilities such as sewer and water. Approval of a detailed site plan for infrastructure allows an applicant to go forward with grading the property and making infrastructure improvements before all the architectural details are complete. The applicant may apply for approval of a regular detailed site plan at a later date.

(f) Permit Review

Building, use and occupancy, grading and sign permits are issued by the Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources (DER). DER refers such applications to other local agencies including the Soil Conservation Service, Department of Public Works and Transportation, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, State Health Department and M-NCPPC.

The purpose of the referral to M-NCPPC is to ensure conformance with the Zoning Ordinance, Historic Preservation Ordinance and the Subdivision Regulations. This may involve parking, proposed uses, conditions attached to zoning, conditions attached to subdivision approvals and other issues. DER must refer most permits to M-NCPPC or the permit would be deemed to be issued in error.

(g) Historic Area Work Permits (HAWP)

Projects involving an Historic Site or property within an historic district require an additional permit, beyond those described in the previous section, if certain types of work are proposed, such as major exterior alterations, demolition, new construction or changes to the setting of an Historic Site. The HAWP process does not apply to interior work or to exterior projects that will not alter the exterior features of the Historic Site or its setting.

(h) Other Regulations

There are other regulations pertaining to woodland conservation and landscaping that have a significant impact on the development process. These regulations are governed by manuals that have been adopted by reference in the Zoning Ordinance.

(i) Woodland Preservation and Tree Preservation

To minimize unnecessary destruction of woodlands and specimen trees, the Woodland Conservation and Tree Preservation Ordinance was passed in 1990 and is part of the Zoning Ordinance. This policy involves a negotiated tree conservation plan that sets site-specific conservation requirements and commits the applicant to the use of certain tree protection techniques before, during and after construction. Strict penalties are imposed if the agreement is violated.

(j) Landscape Manual and Alternative Compliance

The Landscape Manual establishes mandatory minimum standards for planting on residential lots and for commercial landscape strips, perimeter strips and internal landscaping in parking lots. It requires buffering incompatible uses and screening undesirable views such as those associated with loading activities. It also includes a list of recommended trees and ornamental plants, as well as planting specifications and details.

In cases where circumstances prevent strict compliance, there is a procedure to allow other designs that equal or exceed the requirements. This procedure is called alternative compliance. A committee of M-NCPPC Planning Department staff reviews these cases. It makes recommendations to the Planning Director, in the case permits, or the approving authority, such as the District Council, in other types of cases. An alternative compliance application must be filed in conjunction with another application, such as a permit, detailed site plan or special exception.

D. Other Aspects of the Development Approval Process

As previously discussed, all land in Prince George's County is zoned, and the type and density of potential development is regulated by the terms of the various zoning categories. Before a land owner or developer can actually begin construction on his property, however, he generally must obtain approval of a plan of subdivision, and record plats in compliance with Subdivision Regulations (Subtitle 24 of the County Code). The Planning Board has full and final responsibility for administration of the Subdivision Regulations. In certain zones and when required by conditions of zoning approval, Conceptual and Detailed Site Plans must be approved. The necessary permits must always be obtained prior to the beginning of construction.

(1) Subdivision Process

(a) Preliminary Plat -- The first step in the process, preapplication submission, allows an applicant the opportunity to seek advice and confer with the staff and other agency referrals prior to formal submission of a preliminary plat.

When applying for a preliminary plat, the developer must submit to the Planning Board a general scheme of the proposed development, showing location of the property, its existing topography, access to utilities and rights-of-way, and proposed layout of roads, streets, parking areas, structures, school, park or utility sites, open spaces, provisions for storm water management -- in short, "all facts needed to enable the Board and other public agencies to determine whether the proposed layout . . .is satisfactory from the standpoint of the public health, safety and welfare," and meets the requirements of applicable laws and regulations.

The technical staff of the Planning Board and other interested agencies review the proposal and make recommendations to the Planning Board, recording the project's conformity with the Subdivision and Zoning Ordinances, Approved Area Master Plan, Master Plan of Highways, Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan, storm water management measures, public facility adequacy and its relationship to adjacent properties.

Preliminary Plats are considered by the Planning Board at its regular public meetings. The Planning Board's hearing is governed by "Rules of Procedure" required under the State Administrative Procedures Act, which requires the placement of a sign on the property advertising the time and place of the hearing. The "Rules" spell out rules of evidence, and require the Planning Board to adopt a resolution stating the basis for its conclusions in each case. The Board may approve the proposal as submitted; approve subject to specified conditions; or disapprove. At this state in the subdivision process, the Board may require reservation and/or dedication of land for public purposes such as school or park sites, or roads. Reservation of land may require a public hearing. The Board must act within specified time limits as set forth by State law.

An approved Preliminary Plat is valid for a period of 2 to 6 years from the date of approval depending on the size of the development, with a possible one year extension. If the applicant has not recorded all plats included on the approved Preliminary Plat within the validity period, he must resubmit the plan and the procedure will be repeated.

(b) Record Plat -- The applicant must submit to MNCPPC a final plat, or plats, in a form prescribed in the Subdivision Regulations. The plat must show all pertinent engineering data needed to readily locate every street, lot, block and boundary line on the ground.

The Planning Board's technical staff reviews the plats to assure that the plat exactly reproduces the approved preliminary plat of subdivision. That fact having been established, the Planning Board will consider and take action on the plats at a regularly scheduled meeting. Public hearings are not required. The Planning Board is required by Maryland State Law to act within a 30 day time period.

Once a final plat is approved by the Planning Board, it becomes a record plat when it is recorded in the Prince George's County Land Records Office, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

(c) Adequate Public Facilities -- The Subdivision Regulations require that "the Planning Board shall not approve a subdivision plat if it finds that adequate public facilities and services do not exist or are not programmed for the area within which the proposed subdivision is located".

The Planning Board makes the determination of adequacy on the basis of information submitted by the various agencies responsible for building the required facilities or supplying the necessary services (WSSC, Board of Education, State Department of Transportation, etc.). If the necessary facilities are not already existing, they must be scheduled for construction with 100% of construction funds allocated in the County's adopted Six-Year Capital Improvements Program, or within the State Department of Transportation's Consolidated Transportation Program. Water and sewer facilities are usually considered adequate if the subdivision is located within an area in which water and sewer are presently available, under construction, or designated for service within the first six years of a current approved Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan. If the subdivision is not within the area designated for service within the next six years of a current approved Ten-Year Water and Sewerage Plan, water and sewer facilities would be deemed adequate if the builder provides individual sewerage and/or water systems (septics and wells) with installation approved by the State and County Health Departments.

With the adoption of CB-lOO-1989, Police and Fire and Rescue facilities are included in the APF test. Facilities to adequately serve the subdivision must be existing, under construction, or fully funded in the County Capital Improvement Program. If these requirements are not met, the developer may fund the improvements to alleviate the inadequacy as a condition of preliminary plat approval.

The Subdivision Regulations requirements for adequate public facilities is intended to lead to better coordination between demands for new public facilities to support new development, and the provision of necessary facilities and services. In past years, subdivisions were often developed without regard to availability or timing of essential public services, causing inconvenience, added expense, health and safety hazards as well as costly, unbalanced expenditures of public funds to provide necessary services in widely scattered locations.

(d) Cluster Subdivision

The cluster provision of the Zoning Ordinance is a land development intended to promote flexibility and variety of housing types in residential communities without sacrificing existing densities or changing the character of the neighborhood. It also encourages the preservation of existing topography while providing more community green or open space.

Clustering allows the community to be subdivided into lots of varying shapes and sizes, some smaller than the minimum permitted in conventional subdivisions developed under the same zone, and permit variations in setbacks and other lot requirements. However, when a lot is reduced to a smaller size than that required by the zone, the difference must be incorporated in an open space system for the use of all the residents of the development. Unlike other subdivisions, a Planning Board action on a cluster subdivision may be appealed to the District Council.

(2) Conceptual and Detailed Site Plan Review -- For those zones or conditional zoning actions which require conceptual and/or detailed site plan review and approval, building permits cannot be issued until such plans are approved by the Planning Board. All construction and landscaping must meet the terms of the approved site plan.

Site plan review is the procedure by which the Planning Board and/or its technical staff review a developer's proposed site plan to assure that it meets the stated purposes and standards of the zone, provides for such necessary public facilities as roads and schools, and protects and preserves natural features and encourages the most desirable siting of structures, landscaping and other improvements.

Conceptual site plans establish the general arrangement of uses of lots, the circulation system, and those areas of the site to be conserved. A detailed site plan shows the proposed internal roads, pedestrian walks, parking areas, building relationships, landscaping, open space, recreation facilities, lighting, etc.

If a proposed site plan is rejected by the Planning Board, the applicant may appeal the Board's decision to the District Council or he may choose to present a revised plan for staff and Planning Board to review. The Board must be satisfied that the plan meets all the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision Regulations before it will approve the site plan. Subdivision recordation can be refused if a site plan is not approved.

(3) Permit Review -- Building, Use and Occupancy, and Sign permits are issued by the Department of Environmental Resources. Applications for permits are also referred to other local agencies including the Department of Public Works and Transportation, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and the Health Department and the M-NCPPC for review and recommendations as to zoning requirements. Any permit issued without such review and recommendation is invalid.

(4) Approval of Request for Water and Sewer Service - - The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission determines what sewer line extensions may be necessary to service a particular development approved by the County Sewerage Plan. The WSSC also determines the conditions under which any needed extensions will be built, or sewer connections, or hook-ups authorized.

The WSSC permit system involves three basic types of sewer service permits which must be obtained. The type of permit needed depends upon the location and situation of the site in relation to the existing sewerage system.

  • Authorization Permit: The first requirement for a developer whose property is not served by an existing water or sewer line is an authorization. The authorization is a commitment by WSSC to build a new line from the closest existing line to the location of the new development site, and to size that line so that it will accommodate at least the volume of water needed and sewage flow estimated to be generated by the proposed development. An approved authorization implies that the subsequent required approvals for a connection and a hook-up will be granted so long as the developer meets established engineering standards, and capacity is available within the system.
  • Connection Permit: The next requirement is connection. That permit is a commitment by WSSC to build a connecting line from the main line in the street adjacent to the property to the edge of the property line of the proposed structure. Approval of a connection implies that subsequent approval of a hook-up will be granted so long as the developer meets established engineering standards.
  • Hook-Up Permit: The final step needed to allow the building to use the WSSC system is the hook-up. It permits the developer to install a pipe across his property to hook-up the plumbing in the building with the connecting lines that WSSC has built in the street.

E. Ten Year Water and Sewerage Plan

(1) General History

The County is required by Sections 9-501 through 9-521 of the Annotated Code of Maryland to prepare a County Plan dealing with water supply systems and sewerage systems at least once every 3 years. The Ten Year Water & Sewerage Plan sets forth the County's goals, objectives and procedures for 1) delineating areas of the County which will be served by community water and sewerage systems (WSSC) in the succeeding ten-year period, 2) programming of major sewerage and water projects needed to serve the areas delineated 3) regulating the installation of individual septic systems and wells, 4) meet all regulatory requirements to ensure adequacy of the water and sewer system, 5) support managed development in Prince George's County, and 6) protect and enhance the environmental quality of Prince George's County through sound water and sewer Planning.

The County's Plan provides for the above mentioned objectives and policies by also taking into consideration the following;

  • water resources
  • water quality standards
  • effluent standards
  • methods of sewerage treatment and disposal
  • water supply
  • cost effectiveness
  • fulfillment of County Plans and goals

The first Water and Sewerage Plan (1971-1980), was prepared and submitted to the Board of County Commissioners on September 30, 1969. Following several amendments, the required reviews and public hearing this Plan was adopted by the Commissioners and transmitted to the State Health Department. Today the Plan is updated three times a year and readopted every three years.

(2) Plan Preparation

Title 9, Subtitle 515 contains various requirements relating to the preparation and adoption of the Plan. At least every 2 years the County Council is required to prepare, review and revise as they consider necessary a statement of objectives and policies to be achieved and implemented by the County Plan.

Based on the objectives and policies set by the Council, the Plan is prepared for the County Executive by the Department of Environmental Resources and is submitted by resolution to the County Council. The State law provides that the Council may comment on the Executive's proposed Plan and return it to the County Executive for further modifications prior to introduction. The County Council may also chose to make its own amendments prior to introduction of the resolution. The County Council is required to give thirty days notice of the public hearing to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. It is also required that various state agencies as well as any Municipal Corporation effected be notified of the hearing.

The Plan transmitted by the Executive may include amendments to the areas delineated to be served by community water and sewer (also known as service area maps) and amendments to the actual text of the Plan.

The Ten-Year Plan specifies any individual who desires a change in the service area maps must submit his request prior to a particular date. Once all of the requests have been received, the Department of Environmental Resources sends the requests to the various agencies in the County concerned with land development. Each of the agencies reviews the requests for service area changes and submits comments.

The Department of Environmental Resources' evaluation of each service area change request includes an analysis of the application's conformance to the Master Plan, its present zoning, its present subdivision status, as well as other impacts the proposed development might have on roads, water and sewer lines, and other public facilities. After analyzing each development's impact, the Department makes recommendations to the County Executive. The County Executive reviews each of the requests, and makes a recommendation on each request. When the Ten Year Water and Sewer Plan is transmitted by the County Executive to the County Council, a copy of each evaluation is made available to each Council Member (staff report).

The Ten Year Water and Sewerage Plan is referred to the Council's Transportation, Housing and the Environment Committee. Each request and all text amendments are discussed. Council staff is responsible for providing the Council with a review of the public hearing testimony and other information pertaining to the proposed request. Council staff then drafts the adopting legislation, on the basis of the straw votes made in the worksession.

Upon adoption, the Plan is submitted to the County Executive for ten working days review. The County Executive may comment thereon and following receipt of his comments the Council may again amend the Plan. This time the amendments are limited to those items included in the Executive's comments.

Following the Council's action on any of the Executive's comments, the Plan is submitted to the State Department of Environment.

The State Department of Environment is allowed ninety days to review the Plan and has the authority to approve or disapprove the Plan in whole or in part. During the period of review, the Plan remains effective, as adopted by the Council. However, any individual choosing to begin construction based on the adopted Plan acts at his own risk, and no vested rights are created. Should the Department disapprove the Plan in whole or in part, the County may appeal the Department's decision.

(3) Regional Agreements

The Blue Plains Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) signed in September, 1985 by the District of Columbia, Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, provides the arrangement for wastewater and sludge management facilities in the Blue Plains Service Area through the year 2010. The IMA also establishes a uniform formula for each jurisdiction to pay for its share of the value of current Blue Plains Service Area facilities and improvements.

(4) Biosolids Management

Sludge management is a related activity in sewerage planning and water quality management. Sludge is the solid material which is removed from sewage during the waste water treatment process. Different types of sludge lend themselves to different forms of utilization and disposal. Currently sludge produced by WSSC facilities are either incinerated, subsurfaced soil injected at various agricultural and marginal sites. Listed below is a chart showing the treatment plant, the jurisdiction responsible for operation of the plant, and the method of disposal:

Sewage Treatment Plant Operational Jurisdiction Method of Sludge Disposal
Piscataway WSSC Land Application
Parkway WSSC Land Application
Western WSSC Incineration
Mattawoman Charles County Land Application
Blue Plains Washington, D.C. Composting/Land Application

F. Ten Year Solid Waste Plan

(1) General Background

The County is required by Title 9, Subtitle 5 of the Maryland Annotated Code to have a County Plan dealing with solid waste disposal systems, solid waste acceptance facilities and the systematic collection and disposal of solid waste, including litter. This Plan must cover at least a 10 year period and should be reviewed at least once every 2 years.

(2) Plan Preparation

The Planning and review process of the Ten Year Solid Waste Plan is dictated by the Annotated Code of Maryland. The County Council is responsible for setting the objectives and goals of the Plan. Based on these goals and objectives the Department of Environmental Resources, Solid Waste Management Division prepares the Plan and any necessary amendments for the County Executive's approval. He then transmits the document or amendments in the form of a resolution to the County Council for their review.

The Council's consideration of the Ten Year Solid Waste Plan or amendments thereto are discussed during a worksession of the Council's Transportation, Housing and the Environment Committee. A Public Hearing must be held prior to the committee's recommendation and before final adoption. Much like the Public Hearing process for the Ten Year Water and Sewer Plan, a thirty day notice of the hearing must be made to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Any municipality affected by the legislation should also receive a notice at least 14 days before the hearing.

(3) Solid Waste Management Program

Currently, the County provides for collection of solid waste from residential areas by County contracted collection services, municipal services and private collection services. A special service to pick up yard refuse and bulky items is provided free by the County.

Management of other items in the County's wastestream which are not part of regular household waste, but can be a problem because of illegal dumping are also provided for in the Ten Year Solid Waste Plan. These items include Community Discarded Wastes (used tires, abandoned vehicles, litter) and Special Wastes (hazardous, pathological, explosive, radioactive, used motor oil, agricultural, land clearing and demolition materials, flyash, sludge and cooking grease).

Currently, the County has one sanitary landfill, the Brown Station Road Facility, one rubble fill, Ritchie-Marlboro and one flyash fill operated by PEPCO in Brandywine. The County's Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan also includes a County Recycling Plan, adopted by the Council in 1989 to help reduce solid waste disposal.

(4) Components of the County's Recycling Plan

Components of the County' s Recycling Plan include the following;

  • In calendar year 2000, the County achieved a recycling rate of 36%, surpassing the State's mandate under the Maryland Recycling Act to recycle 20% and surpassing the required 35% recycling rate by 1999, as mandated under County law (CB-53-1989).
  • The County sponsored curbside recycling program now services approximately 150,000 single-family households.
  • The County developed a program which enables garden-type condominium associations to contract directly with their own recyclables hauler. Currently 9,000 units are participating in the program.
  • Over 200,000 tons of recyclable materials were recovered from the commercial waste stream in the County in calendar year 2000.
  • Commercial recycling efforts sponsored by the Waste Reduction Section include assistance to small businesses in deciding how to start recycling programs and include ways to reduce their overall waste stream through waste reduction practices.
  • Prince George's County provides that apartment owners and manager with multi-family properties with 3 or more dwelling units must provide convenient recycling programs for their residents. Staff from the Waste Reduction Section assists property owners with educational materials, and by providing technical assistance in planning and maintaining effective multi-family recycling program. 600 units throughout the County are monitored by the Waste Reduction Section.
  • The County operates two drop-off locations for residents at the Brown Station Road Landfill and at the Missouri Avenue Solid Waste Acceptance and Recycling Facility. These drop-offs receive comingled recyclables, to include all of the items currently being collected curbside.
  • Additional programs which contribute to the County's recycling rate include tire recycling, white goods (appliances) and government programs.
  • The County Periodically host household hazardous Waste Collections. The material collected at these events are those materials typically used by homeowners to clean and paint their houses, or control household pests or garden insects, and fertilize their yards.
  • In 2000, the County initiated a program to deal with the problem of outdated computers/monitors, televisions and other related electronic equipment. Located with the Household Hazardous Waste Acceptance Facility at the Brown Station Road, is a collection site for electronics.
  • The County maintains a Yard Waste Composting facility located outside Upper Marlboro. Composting of leaves, grass, and wood waste recycling contributed only 85,000 tons of recyclable materials in 2000.

G. Implementation Programs

A number of programs have been utilized as a means of bridging the gap between Master Plan recommendations and day-to-day land development activities. These public policy documents typically focus on the funding of public service projects, the establishment of priorities in the expenditure of public funds, the scheduling of expenditures so as to bear a close relationship to anticipated revenues, and the coordination of activities when several departments or agencies are involved. Outlined below is one of the County's principal development related programs. The County's Capital Improvement Program, which is also a crucial implementation program, is described in Chapter IV of this handbook.(1) Community Development Program

This program (pursuant to CB-1O1-1987) establishes a coordinated and systematic County-wide plan to revitalize deteriorating communities, provide decent housing, maintain a suitable living environment, and expand economic opportunities for persons of low and moderate income. The Department of Housing and Community Development on behalf of the County Executive, submits a five-year Housing and Community Development Consolidated Plan and also an annual Community Development Program.

The five-year plan provides:

  • an assessment of housing and community development needs within appropriate sub-areas of the County (neighborhoods, census tracts, etc.)
  • a strategy for meeting revitalization, housing and economic development needs
  • an identification, by name and geographic boundaries, of the areas recommended for concentrated improvement efforts, with justification for each recommended area
  • legible maps that show the distribution of households, substandard and deteriorated housing, and the location of all block grant projects.

The annual program consists of the County's application for securing federal funds and provides:

  • a detailed description of recommended activities for the succeeding fiscal year
  • the estimated current year cost of each project, total cost of completion, and source of funding
  • the geographical boundaries and locations
  • identification of the agency or combination of agency responsible for administering and/or implementing the recommended activities.

Each annual program and five-year plan is forwarded to the County Council on or before January 15. Upon receipt, the Council must act by resolution on either document within sixty (60) calendar days. Upon Council approval, the County Executive forwards the plan (or program) to the designated federal agency for review and approval.

H. Other Regulatory Aspects of Policy Implementation

Various regulatory codes, in conjunction with the zoning and subdivision regulations, may be viewed as basic tools of policy implementation, which assist government in realizing its identified physical development goals. Functioning in response to the needs and demands of the public to further the shape and direction of future development, it is incumbent upon County government to continually revise and update these regulations so as to promote increased quality growth. Through the amendment process, revision of the regulatory codes provides the County with the assurance that they continue to be appropriate to existing conditions and anticipated needs.

While these codes assist quality growth, it must be kept in mind that they are minimum standards which must have a substantial relationship to health or safety needs.

(1) Building Code - Subtitle 4

In 1998 the County Council last revised and updated the Building Code through a comprehensive review, incorporating by reference the Building Official's and Code Administrator's International, Inc., “BOCA National Building Code” 1996 Edition, the CABO One and Two Family Dwelling Code 1995 Edition, and the “BOCA Mechanical Code, 1996 Edition.” The Building Code for Prince George's County is aimed at controlling site preparation, drainage and erosion, construction or alteration, use, occupancy and maintenance of existing or proposed buildings. The Code states regulations in terms of measured performance rather than in rigid specifications of materials to allow the continuing evaluation of new materials and methods of construction.

The 1995 CABO Model Energy Code was adopted as part of the County Building Code, strengthening the County's standards to meet increasing public demands for energy-saving devices and higher efficiency construction standards. The BOCA National Building Code also includes construction requirements to meet the needs of the County's handicapped population. Stringent accessibility requirements were adopted to insure that private as well as public buildings would not provide architectural barriers.

(2) Housing Code - Subtitle 13

The Housing Code is a compilation of all Prince George's County laws which sets forth minimum standards governing the condition and maintenance of dwellings, authorizes periodic inspection, and provides for the responsibilities of enforcement, provisions of appeal and penalties for violation.

The Director of the Department of Environmental Resources is empowered to administer and enforce the Code, which is based on International Property Maintenance Code 2000 Edition. Amended and updated as required, the Housing Code establishes minimum standards for basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, heating and sanitation, fire safety, space and occupancy requirements and cooking equipment. The Housing Code was established on the premise that substandard living conditions adversely affect the public safety, health and welfare, and lead to the continuation, extension and aggravation of urban blight. Adequate protection of the public, therefore, requires the continued enforcement and revision of these minimum housing standards

(3) Road Code - Subtitle 23

In 1989, County Council updated the County Code section dealing with roads and sidewalks, commonly called the “Road Code”.

The regulatory aspects of this Code are twofold. First, the Code establishes general requirements for permit and bonding procedures, submittal and approval of required plans and final certification and approval of the project for acceptance into the County road system. Secondly', the Code incorporates by reference general specifications and standards for highway and street construction, setting forth such requirements as width, curb, gutter and sidewalks, storm drainage, grading and lighting. Together, these sections of the Road Code can be viewed as a comprehensive, regulatory document, designed to assure not only the construction, in conjunction with new development, of arterials necessary to meet the demands of continuing growth, but also to assure that County roads are constructed in such a manner as to meet the minimum requirements for efficiency, safety and minimize County maintenance costs.

(4) Electrical Code - Subtitle 9

The installation, repair, maintenance and inspection of electrical equipment are governed by the Electrical Code of Prince George's County, based generally on the standardized National Electrical Code 1996 Edition as adopted by the National Fire Protection Association. The Code, together with County requirements, requires that an electrical permit be secured from the Chief Electrical Inspector before work may begin on electrical equipment. Separate business licensing standards provide for competency testing and licensing of electricians. The Code provides an exemption for electrical work or equipment installed by or for public utilities when it is owned and maintained by the company as an integral part of the plant or service provided by the utility company.

(5) Plumbing Code

Regulations governing the installation of plumbing and gas fittings fall within the purview of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. This Code requires competency testing for the licensing of plumbers and gas fitters who work in the County. Further, a permit must be obtained from WSSC before any installation, repair or maintenance of this equipment may be performed.

(6) Fire Code - Safety Law - Subtitle 11

The County Fire Safety Law was comprehensively reviewed and updated in 1979. The Fire Prevention Code is a compilation of codes, standards, and model laws which are published by the National Fire Protection Association. The Code is administered by the County Fire Chief. Individual standards are incorporated after adoption by the NFPA.

No building permit or use and occupancy permit may be issued until all plans have been reviewed for compliance with the various fire and life safety code.

(7) Stormwater Management, Grading, and Wetland Protection - Subtitle 4

The purpose of stormwater management is to protect the public safety and the environment by reducing the effects of development on land, stream channels and floodplains by replicating as nearly as possible, the predevelopment runoff characteristics. This may be achieved using a variety of stormwater management techniques including on-site ponds, underground infiltration devices and larger off-site regional facilities. The off-site regional stormwater management facilities or ponds are part of the County's Capital Improvement Program. Developers pay a fee to the County in lieu of building an on-site facility. The protection of existing wetlands and replacement of wetlands impacted by development are controlled through permitting processes related to grading or construction activities. ​​