Community mulls becoming a town
Mar. 6, 2003
Amy Boyes
Staff Writer

If residents obtain enough signatures, the zip code known as 20705 in Beltsville could be on its way to becoming a new municipality in Prince George's County.

According to Census figures, Beltsville has a population of about 16,000, which doesn't include the 20705 community of Calverton.

Kevin Kennedy of Beltsville said when he ran last year for County Council dozens of people mentioned a desire to see the community incorporated. He said he has figures placing the population at 23,000.

He helped to create an executive committee of 10 to 12 residents and civic leaders to research the issue.

At its first and only meeting, committee members looked at the pros and cons of incorporation, and decided to continue looking into the possibility.

The committee found that incorporation could increase services, and also stop the area from shrinking through annexation by other municipalities.

Kennedy said services that could be improved in the community include road repair, leaf pickup, snow removal and police presence despite that there is a district station for the Prince George's County Police in Beltsville.

The station is understaffed, and officers have to prioritize their responsibilities, he said.

However, to pay for these services municipal residents typically pay higher taxes than residents living in unincorporated areas do.

"When I started this, I was not if favor of incorporation," Kennedy said. "I'm now looking at it differently, and I see the advantages of becoming a municipality."

Bernie Becker, president of the Vansville Heights Citizens Association and a member of the executive committee, said he wants to poll his neighbors before taking a stance on incorporation.

Becker said he heard from people on both sides of the issue.

Some favor incorporation because municipal governments tend to be more responsive to residents while others oppose incorporation because they don't' want higher taxes.

The committee is scheduled to meet again next week, and a rescheduled public meeting is planned for the end of March.

The incorporation process starts when residents obtain a petition of incorporation from the county Board of Elections. Then an 18-month period begins in which at least 25 percent of registered voters within the Beltsville community would have to sign a petition in favor of incorporation. The county Board of Elections then verifies the petitions before the County Council votes on the issue. If the council rules in favor of incorporation, the issue would then be put to voters living in the proposed borders of the municipality on a referendum.

If the majority of those registered voters support the incorporation, the area becomes a municipality.

The last community to incorporate in Prince George's County was New Carrollton in 1953, according to the Maryland Municipal League.

But before incorporation even begins, Kennedy said the committee has to find volunteers to knock on doors with petitions. Community and business input is also needed, he said.

"This has to be the will of the people," he said. "We recognize not everyone will be in favor of it."

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