Group hopes effort puts incorporation on ballot
Feb. 19, 2004
Meghan Mullan
Staff Writer

After more than a year of work, the Committee to Incorporate Beltsville is moving forward with plans to let area residents vote on the issue.

The group of about 12 community leaders and volunteers meets once a month for two hours and has the county petitions necessary to move the incorporation forward, said Kevin Kennedy, chairman of the committee.

The committee obtained the petitions in the fall and has 18 months to gather the signatures of 25 percent of the registered voters in Beltsville.

"Signing the petition does not mean one is for or against incorporation, signing allows the process to continue forward," Kennedy said.

Kennedy estimates that the committee will need to get 3,000 signatures to bring the issue before the Prince George's County Council who will vote on allowing the community to take the issue before residents.

"If we don't get the petitions this year, the thing will probably die," said David Murray, a 50-year resident of Beltsville and a member of the committee. "We will have failed from apathy as opposed to opposition."

Murray said the committee is in a research process. It is studying the adopted budgets from nearby municipalities such as College Park, Greenbelt, Bowie and Laurel to gauge how incorporation would affect Beltsville, Murray said.

He said the committee realizes Beltsville is different from its neighboring municipalities, but looking at the strengths and weakness of these cities gives the committee an idea of what Beltsville could expect to get from incorporation.

"We've found there's a lot we didn't know," Kennedy said.

The group said there are many pros and cons for incorporating. Among the cons was a tax increase, which the committee felt might hurt those on fixed incomes. One of the pros was the ability to respond more quickly to local issues.

Murray believes an incorporated Beltsville could create a police force, thereby avoiding dependence on the county police.

"Beltsville is not a high crime area," he said. But in the past it has taken county police 45 minutes to respond, Murray said. He thinks a municipal police force would benefit the community.

Karen Coakley, president of the Beltsville Citizens' Association and member of the committee, said no one on the committee is definitively for or against incorporation.

"This is for informational purposes," she said.

She sits on the task force as a representative of the Beltsville Citizens' Association, which has not taken a formal position either for or against incorporation, she said.

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