June 20th, 2009

we can't teach what we don't know
  • uu_mom

Mixed-Use zoning in Prince George's Co.

This is forwarded from activist Lourene with permission. She's done a lot of research and provided specific information, whereas I didn't find time to read the Mixed-Use Legislation. Apparently the hearing already took place on June 15, but hopefully amendments could still be made:

...the proposed Form-based Code Mixed-use Zone legislation (MUZ legislation), now before the County Council. The MUZ legislation allows for the creation of mixed-use zones throughout much of the County. Though many elements of this
legislation are good and could facilitate transit-oriented development,
other elements are problematic.

Under the guise of enabling "certainty", the MUZ legislation removes the
right of the public (including residents, civic associations, environmental
organizations, and municipalities) to have input on site plans. It also
removes their right to appeal to the Planning Board and to the County
Council.

And the County/District Council will lose oversight power. Most power will
be vested in the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
(MNCPPC) Planning Director.

Though the claimed goal of the MUZ legislation is to create transit-oriented
development, the MUZ legislation does not mandate that these large
developments be located at or near transit centers. Potentially all of the
County's 26 designated centers and 7 corridors would be eligible for these
fast-tracked large developments. And the MUZ legislation does not prohibit
non-transit-oriented development from being located at transit centers.

Once a site plan is approved (with no public comment or review by elected
officials), deviations of up to 10% for building height, architectural
materials, and parking spaces can be granted at the staff level. Significant
modifications to the site plan can be granted by the Planning Director AFTER
site plan approval.

The MUZ legislation allows the MNCPPC staff to deviate from the Landscape
Manual (which governs buffering and screening) and also changes the common
law definition of "accessory use" potentially enabling developers to add
unauthorized uses to their properties without even going through the site
plan amendment process. Text amendments are also authorized.

In addition, though repeatedly requested to do so, the MNCPPC has refused to
incorporate into the legislation a MANDATE to protect residential zones from
adverse impacts, relating to traffic, noise, lights, smells, trash, or
shadows, caused by adjacent mixed-use zones.

And while the site plan applications must submit a LEED Scorecard, and are
exhorted to meet LEED standards, the legislation does not require the
buildings to actually be LEED certified. Nor does the MUZ legislation
prohibit adverse environmental impacts.

Even if a form-based code and a mixed-use zone are things we might like,
this legislation has great need of amendment before being made law. We need
to convince the County Council members of this.

Please email ALL the Council members and ask them to amend this legislation
to address these concerns!

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For information on the Form-based Code Mixed-use legislation, see:
http://www.pgplanning.org/Projects/Ongoing_Plans_and_Projects/Community_Plan
s/Mixed-Use.htm

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Please forward this email to other civic activists!