The Dernogalizer

September 22, 2010

Action Alert: Prince George’s County Clean Water Bill

In March 2010 Maryland witnessed cowardice in Annapolis as its General Assembly voted to roll back storm water regulations passed in 2007 at the request of developers.  Montgomery County passed legislation enacting the stronger standards which the state shelved.  Now Prince George’s County is attempting to follow suit.  See the Action Alert below for information about this legislation.

Attention Anacostia Advocates-

This Thursday at 10am the Prince George’s County Council’s Transportation, Housing, and Environment (THE) committee will take up CB-80, the clean water bill. Earlier this summer, advocates achieved a major victory for clean water in the Anacostia with the unanimous passage of Montgomery County’s new stormwater regulation. It is now Prince George’s County’s turn to step up to the plate and do its part.Council Bill CB-80 is substantially the same as what was enacted in Montgomery County, highlighted by requiring the same protective stormwater runoff standard in both new development and redevelopment settings. This is vitally important because it will revitalize the older areas of Prince George’s with modern green infrastructure amenities. Studies have shown that green infrastructure like tree plantings and raingardens increase residential property values (references: click here and here), and that shopping centers with those same green amenities attract customers who stay longer and spend more money (reference: click here). This is exactly the kind of development Prince George’s County needs: green, attractive, and high quality.

Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association (MNCBIA)is the lobbying organization for many local developers. The Montgomery County stormwater rules were passed after a stakeholder negotiation process in which MNCBIA was a key participant. CB-80 in Prince George’s County is substantially the same as what the builders agreed to in Montgomery County, yet the builders vehemently oppose passage of CB-80. So, apparently clean water rules that are good for Montgomery County are too good for Prince George’s County, at least in the MNCBIA’s view? No wonder we don’t get all the projects we want in Prince George’s when the builders mislead the public this way. It is time we stopped letting these people hold the county hostage and send a strong message that we want high quality development in Prince George’s County.

Let’s call MNCBIA’s position what it is: a cynical ploy to keep polluting our waters and to continue foisting low quality development on Prince George’s County. MNCBIA says that new construction is a minor contributor of nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay – but what about the impact of the existing development on our county’s rivers, the Anacostia and the Patuxent? It has been shown that 88% of Prince George’s County’s waterways are degraded by stormwater runoff, resulting in a $900 million backlog of infrastructure and stream restoration needs (reference: click here). MNCBIA misleads further by referring to the impact of new development, which ignores the enormous impact of existing development as MNCBIA campaigns to gut a bill that would help us fix the problems caused by projects built years before modern stormwater controls.

College Park Jiffy Lube

When developers don’t control stormwater runoff on site, they are passing the cost on to taxpayers in the form of costly repairs and retrofits downstream. Why do we let them keep getting away with this? Developers also play on the fears of our older communities by saying they can’t afford to manage their pollution if they are going to build inside the Beltway. But research has shown that new stormwater management techniques that protect our waterways are no more expensive than the traditional practices touted by our local builders (references: click here and here) Stand up for clean water and high quality development in Prince George’s County!

TAKE ACTION!
Please reach out to your member of county council to ask him or her to support CB-80. In particular, contact THE members Ingrid Turner, Andrea Harrison, and Tony Knotts and ask them to pass CB-80 out of committee unanimously.

THE Committee members:
Brier Ditch, Paint Branch, Northeast Branch- Eric Olson, District 3 EOlson@co.pg.md.us
Indian Creek & Upper Beaverdam- Ingrid Turner, District 4 IMTurner@co.pg.md.us
Port Towns & Lower Beaverdam- Andrea Harrison, District 5 councildistrict5@co.pg.md.us
South County (Clinton, Fort Washington, Oxon Hill)- Tony Knotts, District 8 TKnotts@co.pg.md.us

Key votes on the council:
Sligo Creek & Northwest Branch- Will Campos, District 2 wacampos@co.pg.md.us
Watts Branch (Seat Pleasant, Capitol Heights), Lower Beaverdam- Camille Exum, District 7 CAExum@co.pg.md.us

Feel free to contact AWS Director of Advocacy Brent Bolin at bbolin@anacostiaws.org with any questions.  Thanks for your support of AWS and the watershed!

——————————————————————–

Here are an additional 5 reasons from AWS why Prince George’s County should enact strong stormwater standards.

1.      Pay me now or pay me later

The federal government is tightening up Clean Water Act requirements and this is going to trickle down to all counties in Maryland and everywhere in Chesapeake Bay. The County will be responsible for meeting new water quality numbers, and CB-80 saves the county money by asking developers to pay their fair share for clean water.

Continuing lax storm water standards in the county allows developers to keep passing costs on to taxpayers/county. Treating runoff at the source during the development process is much cheaper than the county making retrofits later to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. The County will be required over time to retrofit existing impervious surface, so every new bit of impervious surface added without adequate storm water controls is a direct cost to the county.

2. Existing development has caused existing problems

We will never clean up our waterways if we don’t fix stormwater management during redevelopment. The majority of the built area inside the beltway was constructed without any storm water management. This has led to the severe storm water flooding issues in the downstream Anacostia regions like College Park, Hyattsville, Edmonston and North Brentwood. That is why it is so important to treat new and redevelopment the same under CB-80 – our county’s older communities need the most help with flooding and water quality problems.

3. Environmental justice

Building on point 2, a lower standard for redevelopment sets up a structural inequity between developed and developing parts of the county. This means places like North Brentwood and the Port Towns get less green amenities than places like Mitchellville. This should be a tough sell for the county council to make.

4. You get what you ask for.  High standards can lead to high-quality development.

Historically Prince George’s county has not gotten the kind of development it wants. The reasons for this are complex, but one thing is certain: for decades the county has tried the “race to the bottom” approach with regionally low environmental standards and that approach has not resulted in the development desired by county residents. It is therefore time for a new approach.

In Philadelphia and neighboring Maryland counties higher environmental standards have led to higher quality development. Low income areas of Philly are being revitalized with green buildings and green infrastructure because developing that way has become the “new normal.” Prince George’s county is primed to be the primary growth area of metropolitan Washington and if the county shows leadership by demanding high quality development then we will be an even more desirable place to be, live and work.

We should no longer accept whatever project a developer deigns to give us, but rather set forth a vision for our community that we demand they meet. Studies have shown that green infrastructure like tree plantings and rain gardens significantly raise property values and also that the same green amenities at shopping centers result in consumers staying longer and spending more money. It really comes down to whether we allow development to continue happening to us or if we envision and ask for development that is for us.

5.  Fight damaging double standards.

The Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association (MNCBIA) is the lobbying organization for many local developers, and it is pressing the Prince George’s County Council to set lower standards than Montgomery County recently set.

The Montgomery County Council recently passed storm water rules that developed through an extensive stakeholder negotiation process in which MNCBIA was a key participant. CB-80 in Prince George’s County is substantially the same as what the builders agreed to in Montgomery County, yet the builders vehemently oppose passage of CB-80.

So apparently clean water rules that are good for Montgomery County are too good for Prince George’s County, at least in the MNCBIA’s view.  No wonder we don’t get all the projects we want in Prince George’s when the builders mislead the public this way.  It is time we stopped letting thes

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