By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Prince George’s County Council Vice Chairwoman Wala Blegay (D-District 6) and Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga (D-District 1) have proposed legislation that would stop the production of townhomes in non-transit areas of Prince George’s County, Md. for two years.

“The reason behind this legislation is infrastructure,” said Blegay. “We are finding that a lot of the development– especially townhomes– is going up in almost every part of the county, but we don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to support that type of development.”

Council bill 052-2023 was introduced on April 11, according to information released by the county council, and has left Prince George’s County leaders and residents split on whether it’s practical or not. The bill has been held in committee since May 2.

“Prince George’s County was a more rural county 50 years ago,” said Blegay. “Anytime you’re developing in an area that doesn’t have any roadway infrastructure, you’re tearing down . You find two-lane roads, no new schools, and it seems to be up to 400 to 600 townhomes being developed.”

According to the county’s impact area maps, acknowledged transit/revitalization areas include: Bowie, Brandywine, Konterra, Takoma/Langley and Largo Town Center Metro.

Jill Oliver, a five-year Prince George’s County resident, spoke about her experience with increased townhome development in her residential area.

“The land was never intended for large-scale townhouse development,” said Oliver. “[There are] two-lanes on Church Road, where they’re trying to put about 500 units of townhouses. A two-lane road where, on average, people have two to three cars in one unit of housing. You’re talking about over 1,000 more cars on a two-lane road.”

Oliver said she is concerned about developers that do not plan for community safety and support once all people move into the townhomes.

Lori Graf, from Maryland Building Industry Association (MBIA), spoke to the AFRO about MBIA’s complaints and concerns regarding the proposed legislation.

“There’s uncertainty in the marketplace,” said Graf. “People don’t understand that development helps with infrastructure. Much of the money that goes into the development comes back to the citizens in that area.”

“We just feel like there will not be much development in Prince George’s County moving forward,” Graf continued. “It’s gonna hurt the county, and I think people will just choose to build elsewhere for two years.”

Blegay responded to this concern.

“It hasn’t happened and it won’t happen,” she said. “We still have applications coming in every day for certain development and the reality is that the developer is only concerned about one thing – building and leaving. We’re stuck with it afterwards.”

Graf said she wants council members to slow down and look at the full impact of the passage of this legislation.

“I think what we need to do as a community, with the council and the development community, is take a look at the impact in a lot of different jurisdictions [to see] what will happen if this legislation is passed,” she said.

The legislation could be passed and enacted as early as next month, although the county’s budget bill has caused this matter to stall, according to Blegay.

Blegay said the bill has much support but more discussions await. 

“I’m not against development,” said Oliver. “I think development is good, but it has to be done in a smart way that is inclusive and supportive to the existing community.”

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.