Prince George’s County Councilman Derrick L. Davis (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville said since being elected in 2012, he has been looking for ways to promote development around his district’s Largo Town Center Metro station, but a quirk in county zoning laws makes those efforts much more expensive than at other stations.
“It puts us at a technical disadvantage with regard to the fees and pay structures for development,” Davis said. “So companies are dis-incentivized from developing at Largo Town Center in comparison with other Metro sites.”
In 2002, the County Council passed its General Plan — a guide for county-wide growth and land use — to ensure that all of its Metro stations were a part of the “developed” or urban tier, Davis said, but the Largo Town Center station wasn’t completed until 2004 and was labeled rural developing tier and subject to higher infrastructure fees such as public safety and school construction.
“There’s a fear that as the economic situation begins to turn, we don’t want to leave Largo Town Center at a disadvantage as a result of disincentives,” Davis said. “We need to put ourselves in a position where we are as competitive as anywhere else in the county.”
Davis introduced legislation Jan. 29 that would lower the public safety surcharge for developments near the Largo station to the levels required for developments at other county Metro stations. He said the measure would put the area surrounding the station at a level playing field with the rest of the county’s 15 Metro stations, particularly as the county considers measure to promote more transit-oriented development.
The legislation has been sent to the council’s Public Safety and Financial Management Committee, but a hearing for the proposal has not yet been scheduled.
Tom Haller, a Largo-based development attorney, said higher infrastructure fees definitely affects interest in building near Largo Town Center, and since it is tied to the number of units, actually promotes building single family homes over mixed-use complexes.
“There’s no question that it has an impact,” Haller said. “The amount of these fees is quite high, and in the county, there’s no distinction between an efficiency apartment and a five-bedroom home ... You’re in effect discouraging exactly what you want to encourage, which is transit-oriented development.”
M.H. Jim Estepp, president of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, said the county should continue to add incentives to attract new businesses and tenants.
“Certainly there are a number of projects that would fit well in the Largo area, so we need to provide incentives, and not put any extra burdens on business at this time,” Estepp said.
Davis said he is not concerned about setting a precedent for officials and property owners outside of the developed tier pushing for lower infrastructure fees because the area in question is explicitly tied to a strong piece of public infrastructure in Metro.
He added that he expects the station will be labeled as a part of the developed tier when the County Council passes a new General Plan, likely in 2016.
“This is strictly about transit-oriented development,” Davis said. “It’s just that the designation of developed versus developing tiers that limits that potential here.”