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  • Writer's pictureNathan Stewart

Enhancing Transparency and Public Participation:Examining CB-055-2023 and CB-054-2023 (PGC Council)

Recently, the Prince George County Council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee considered CB-055-2023, "An Act Concerning Applications-Standard Review Procedures-Public Hearing," which would mandate the inclusion of a summary of testimony provided both in opposition and in support of proposed subdivision applications, whether expressed orally or in writing during a public hearing, to be incorporated into the administrative record. This proposal, in hearings, has been discussed jointly with CB-054-2023, An Ordinance Concerning Administration Standard Review Procedures-Summaries of Opposition Arguments and Objections, which would necessitate the inclusion of a summary of testimonies, both opposing and supporting, about proposed development applications, which are expressed through written or oral submissions during the evaluation of those specific applications.

CB-054-2023 and CB-55-2023 are essentially the same bill.

The difference between the two is CB-54-2023 will impact all development applications that necessitate the creation of a technical staff report. The reports would be required to incorporate a summary of any opposition. Similarly, CB-55-2023 will apply to all subdivision applications that involve the preparation of a technical staff report.

What It Would Do

Currently, the process for technical staff reports and Planning Board resolutions incorporates summaries of opposition and the actions taken to address comments, eliminating the need for formal codification. During the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee’s June 15th meeting, Draft 1 of CB-055-2023 was discussed, and amendments were proposed to the Subdivision Regulations. These amendments aim to introduce a procedural requirement mandating the inclusion of a summary and evaluation of all testimonies, both opposing and supporting a subdivision application, within the administrative record.

Similarly, CB-54-2023 suggests modifying the standard review procedure for County zoning/development applications outlined in the Zoning Ordinance. This bill aims to enhance public comprehension of administrative decisions by obligating the assessment of opposition arguments and testimonies to be included in the administrative record for such applications. In response to these proposals, the Planning Board has proposed several recommended revisions and amendments to address concerns and establish a more comprehensive framework if the Council decides to formalize these summaries.

One of the concerns highlighted by the Planning Board is the practicality of obtaining potential opposition in technical staff reports. It is often challenging to acquire this information beforehand since it may only be available once the technical staff report is released. Consequently, the Board suggests that this issue should be considered when considering the codification of summaries.

The Board also emphasizes the need for further clarification of specific sections in CB-54-2023 and CB-55-2023. They note that these sections should clearly outline that during the submission of development applications, which are subject to eventual hearings, the opposition must provide written and oral testimonies before or during the hearing. This clarification ensures a transparent and inclusive process for all stakeholders involved.

Why It's Important

This bill is important as it addresses crucial aspects of the application review process in Prince George's County. By mandating the inclusion of a summary of testimonies provided during public hearings for proposed subdivision applications, the bill aims to enhance transparency and accountability. Currently, technical staff reports and Planning Board resolutions already incorporate summaries of opposition and actions taken to address comments. However, the proposed amendments seek to formalize this practice by requiring the inclusion of a comprehensive summary and evaluation of testimonies, both opposing and supporting, within the administrative record.

Overall, the passage of CB-055-2023 and CB-54-2023 would enhance transparency, accountability, and public participation in the application review process in Prince George's County. These bills aim to create a more robust framework that ensures a fair and comprehensive evaluation of proposed development and subdivision applications by formalizing the inclusion of opposition summaries and testimonies in the administrative record. This means that decisions will be made with more significant consideration of the input and concerns of the community.

The passage of these bills would provide a clearer and more transparent platform for stakeholders to engage in the decision-making process. It empowers the community to have their voices heard. It ensures that all perspectives are considered, both in favor and against an application. Prince George's County will be moving towards a more equitable and inclusive application review process, where decisions are made in the best interest of the entire community.

Bill sponsors and Next Steps

CB-055-2023 was introduced and sponsored by Council members Dernoga, Burroughs, Olson, and Oriadha. If there are any questions or concerns about this bill, please get in touch with the Councilmembers' offices. This bill is in its "Second Reading" and is ready for a public hearing, which has not been scheduled as of today.


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