The Prince George's County Council is considering a pair of measures to help spur development around Metro stations.
Both bills set out to streamline approval for commercial and mixed-use developments within a half-mile of Metro or Maryland Transit Administration stations. The first would allow such projects to be fast-tracked straight to the permit process, and the second would give them an exemption from the county's transportation adequacy requirement.
"One of the biggest costs of development is the approval process," said Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro. "If you go to these parts of the county -- near the Metro centers -- you will have a quicker and less expensive time getting your project built."
The measures are the latest attempt by county officials to focus on developing communities around Metro stations. County Executive Rushern Baker made transit-oriented development a priority over the past two years in an effort to bring jobs to the county.
"Somewhere around 70 percent of our population leaves the county every day to work," said Aubrey Thagard, Baker's assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development and public infrastructure.
That goal was dealt a major blow last month when the Treasury Department moved 450 jobs from its offices in Hyattsville to West Virginia. Still, Thagard said plans remain for a joint development project with the state and Metro at the New Carrollton Metro station as well as a plan to bring the state's Department of Housing and Community Development headquarters to that stop.
Transit centers were also prioritized when the Economic Development Incentive Fund was created last year. The $50 million fund will disperse loans and grants to county businesses over the next few years.
The newly introduced measures allow developers to bypass several site plan approvals, which can require engineering and legal fees. The transportation adequacy requirement can be even more costly -- bypassing it allows developers to avoid running a transportation study and potentially building and upgrading roads to meet county standards.
Franklin joined Council members Andrea Harrison, D-Bladensburg, and Derrick Leon Davis, D-Mitchellville, in proposing the two bills.
Despite the tough economy, Franklin expects the measures to quickly attract developer interest. He said that developed Metro centers are important both because of the young professional residents they bring and because their pedestrian- and public transit-friendly nature means less costly wear and tear on road infrastructure.
The ultimate goal is for a series of transit communities that mirror those of the county's neighbor.
"These are communities that offer employment, retail and housing in the same development, along with transit access," Franklin said. "That's what you're seeing in the District of Columbia."