Beltsville incorporation efforts fail
May 25, 2005
Meghan Mullan
Staff Writer




A recent effort to incorporate Beltsville has failed despite the work of several community members who petitioned their neighbors to support making the area its own municipality.

A deadline to collect the necessary signatures to put the issue before the County Council passed in March before enough signatures were gathered, said David Murray, a 50-year Beltsville resident who worked to collect signatures.

"We didn't get enough signatures," he said. "There was not enough time or interest. People didn't want it or opposed it. It died for lack support."

If the group had received the necessary signatures, the council would have voted on allowing the issue to go before residents for a vote. The group needed to get 25 percent of registered Beltsville voters or about 3,000 signatures to move the issue forward. They collected about 2,000 signatures, Murray said.

Murray spent all day at the Beltsville Day festival last year petitioning community members. He tried to gather signatures at local polls on election day last November and he spent two weekends at the post office, he said. But it was not enough.

"I was exposed to a lot of people," he said. Murray said the people he met were divided into three groups: those who were for it, those who said "I'm not going to sign, I don't want more taxes," and those who had no idea what he was talking about.

Because residents were not all of the same mind, there was a lack of the "groundswell of support" needed to push the effort through, he said.

The effort to incorporate Beltsville grew out of an idea that had been discussed in the community for years, but got going in the fall of 2003 after College Park annexed unincorporated land north of the Beltway that borders on Beltsville communities, Murray said. Some members of the group feared that Beltsville would be "gobbled up" by neighboring municipalities.

Kevin Kennedy, a candidate for County Council who lost to Prince George's County Councilman Thomas Dernoga (D-Dist. 1) in a 2002 special election and general election, coordinated the committee to incorporate Beltsville.

The group studied municipal governments of neighboring communities such as College Park and Laurel and decided to go ahead with the petition campaign.

Reasons for pushing forward included interest in a city police force and having more representation for local issues, Murray said.

Bowie High School got a new track, Murray said, while High Point High School in Beltsville has been waiting for a track for years. If Beltsville had a local government, there would be more people to advocate for the school, he said.

But too many of Murray's neighbors feared making Beltsville a city would add another layer of public officials to be paid by tax payer dollars, he said.

"I understand this community is full of retired people, many who live on a fixed income," he said.

E-mail Meghan Mullan at mmullan@gazette.net.