Class was in session this week at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center as Prince George’s County Council member Mary A. Lehman held the first of a series of informational presentations that are meant to help residents better understand the county planning process.
The series is called Planning 101 and the next one is planned for 7-9 p.m. on March 7 at the Beltsville Academy, 4300 Wicomico Ave.
At the senior center, about 15 people attended the event, which featured a presentation from county planners on the process of land use and development within the county. Lehman (D-Dist. 1) said that she wants residents to better understand how land zoning effects what buildings and projects are allowed to be built and where they're built within the county.
“The lesson for all citizens is to be aware of what’s around you,” she said. “Look for [zoning] signs going up, talk to a neighbor.”
Lehman’s district includes the greater Laurel area, Beltsville, College Park, and Calverton.
District 1 residents peppered Lehman and planners with questions on the planning process. Some complained that the county needed to do a better job of notifying homeowner associations and residents when there is a hearing concerning a development near them.
Melissa Daston, president of the West Laurel Civic Association, said she had not been notified on certain development issues and was concerned that elected officials and county planners were too lenient on zoning requests from non-profits and religious organization.
“Is the county looking at zoning issues to ensure no one gets freebies?” she asked.
Lehman said federal laws do allow latitude for religious organizations when it comes to development. Prince George’s County recently lost a legal battle against a religious organization wanting to build a church in West Laurel.
“Is there a fear factor [on opposing church development],” Lehman said. “I have yet to get an answer.”