What’s the point of participating in local government? Once again, I had to ask myself that question after watching the deliberations of Prince George’s County District Council this week. Despite the dogged efforts of four College Park, District 4 residents, one of them being me, a former D4 Councilmember, the District Council (the County Council when it sits on zoning and development matters) denied the residents’ motion for reconsideration of the construction of the JDA storage facility in North College Park.
As you may recall, the District Council decided in October 2018 that a 6-story consolidated storage facility is appropriate for College Park’s main street. On January 28, six District (County) Councilmembers voted to deny the residents’ an opportunity to have the case reconsidered.
Of College Park’s four Councilmembers, only D1 representative, Tom Dernoga, voted to allow the reconsideration while respectively D3 and At-Large representatives, Danielle Glaros and Calvin Hawkins, voted to deny. Mel Franklin, our other At-Large representative, was absent.
The residents stated in their motion that the Council’s final vote in October was based on faulty land use policy analysis by the District Council’s attorney, Stan Brown. Briefly, the Council was never presented with the information that storage facilities are considered industrial use and not for areas zoned C-S-C (mixed use commercial). In fact, in 2008 – 2010, when my neighbors and I met repeatedly with the County’s planning staff as well as County Councilmember, Dernoga, we deliberately indicated in the plan that consolidated storage was not a permitted use.
In addition, the District Council’s final decision resulted from erroneous information the proposed consolidated storage use is not subject to the building height limits, and that “the 2010 plan contemplated a storage facility use when it is expressly excluded storage facilities from the Corridor Infill building form configuration – i.e., principal building height measured in number of stories.”
During the meeting, District Councilmembers were reminded repeatedly by Brown and other staff members that to consider the case for reconsideration, it must fall in at least one of the four categories, surprise, fraud, inadvertence or mistake. Despite these glaring mistakes, a majority of Councilmembers ruled against the citizens.
It is in moments like these that citizens, more often than not, throw in the towel and vow never to return to voice their concerns to those in local governance. In other words, when the people are disregarded and politicians are sure they know better, the people give up. They walk away; many never to return. It is sad to say, perhaps that is just exactly what local governance wants.