Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley recently announced plans to move the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) headquarters from Crownsville in Anne Arundel County to an undisclosed location in Prince George’s County. The decision has been met with much fanfare in Prince George’s County, but officials in Anne Arundel County are furious with the announcement.

“Prince George’s is the second biggest county in the state and it has never been home to a state agency. The governor determined it’s about time that’s changed,” said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for O’Malley. “It makes sense to have any agency in Prince George’s County. In makes perfect sense to have this agency in Prince George’s County.”

The governor announced his intentions to move a state agency to the County in 2006. In 2008, the state legislature organized a task force to figure out which agency would be best to move to Prince George’s County. DHCD was chosen because its goals are aligned with many of the current needs of Prince George’s County.

“DHCD’s prime focus is community development and neighborhood stabilization and that means things like foreclosure prevention and energy assistance,” Adamec said. “These are things the neighborhoods in Prince George’s county benefit from.”

The proposed move will be to an area around one of the county’s metro stations. The goal is to spur economic development, but to also provide commuting options for employees of DHCD, who live outside of Prince George’s County.

Officials within Prince George’s County are ecstatic about the move and see it as an opportunity to provide the kind of development around metro stations that is seen in other jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

“We’re very pleased to receive that information from the governor’s office,” said Kwasi Holman, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation. “We believe that the location of that facility near one of our metro stations will have a catalytic effect in terms of spurring retail and office development.”

However, not everyone is behind this move. Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold will try to block any move of the facility out of his county, saying he doesn’t want to inconvenience Anne Arundel residents or state taxpayers.

“Anne Arundel County was not consulted prior to this decision,” Leopold said. “When you make a decision that significantly affects and disrupts people’s lives, I think it’s always a good idea to involve the people who are going to be impacted and the jurisdiction in which they live.”

Leopold wrote a letter to the Maryland Board of Public Works to express his displeasure about the move. He’s even put together a task force to find an alternate location for the headquarters in Anne Arundel County.

Adamec said the governor understands Leopold’s concerns, and will provide ample opportunity for DHCD employees from Anne Arundel County to adjust to the move. He says there’s more to the process than just moving the employees from that facility.

“As a part of this we’re including the process of filling that facility in Crownsville,” Adamec said. “It could mean that we keep the facility and move another state agency that’s caught in a high-rent situation and save the state some money by moving the agency to the space it owns in Crownsville.”

Meanwhile, Holman is planning to use this news to bolster the Prince George’s County profile to other federal agencies and large corporations. “They’ve always known, from to major corporations, that Prince George’s County is open for business,” he said. “This is further confirmation of our ongoing efforts to attract business and mixed-use to our undeveloped or underdeveloped metro stations.”
 

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO