Following on the decision by the Planning Board to send the MNCPPC Manual on compatible zoning around general aviation airports to the County Council last Thursday, the City of Bowie will be holding a public hearing on Monday, June 4, in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 2614 Kenhill Drive, Bowie, beginning at 8 pm.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide public views to the Bowie City Council, which will formulate a recommendation on the proposed manual to send to the County Council. If you wish to speak at the public hearing, you must sign the speaker's list before the meeting starts, or you can call in your request to be on the speaker's list prior to the hearing. A maximum of three minutes is provided for oral testimony, and additional material may be submitted in writing. The number to call is 301-809-3047, Jim Meinert, the Assistant Planning Director.
This is the first time that the Bowie City Council has formally looked at this issue; they will be having a separate hearing in the future specifically on the Rouse Turf Farm. Our objective for the June 4th meeting should be (1) to ensure that the City Council endorses the manual's zoning recommendations; and (2) get a statement from them to the County Council about the public benefits of the airports (training, economic development, recreation, open space, etc), which should be preserved.
We urgently need people to attend the City Council meeting and endorse the recommendations/promote the airport. If you've testified before, you can re-cycle and update your past testimony, as this is a new audience and they haven't heard any of the comments made at previous meetings. There were at least 15 of you who spoke very convincingly on the value of the airport back in February, and several have testified to the County Planning Board on the manual. Annette Esterheld, the Bowie Blade News Reporter whom Ben Conner took over the Turf Farm, will be attending the meeting and writing a story about the regulations for the following Thursday's edition. She was shocked by the proximity of the planned homes and the flight path and feels quite strongly about it. She will likely approach those who attend the meeting for good quotes. I will be away on a business trip on June 4, but will submit written testimony. Can we get a count of people who are willing to testify or write letters? Bowie residents plus any users of Freeway Airport should all feel qualified to speak! You can also re-package your testimony as a letter to the editor of the local papers. Also, is there a volunteer to take notes at the June 4th meeting for the benefit of those who can't come?
I have an electronic version of the manual and will forward it to anyone who needs a copy (it is a 2MB file, so I didn't want to forward it unless requested). Paper copies are still available at the desk at Freeway Airport, I believe.
For those who wish to contact the Bowie City Council, the following can be reached at City Hall, 2614 Kenhill Drive, Bowie, MD 20715
G. Frederick Robinson, Mayor
Douglas J.J. Peters, Mayor Pro Tem
William A. Aleshire
Paul D. Ellington
Leo E. Green, Jr.
Jack D. Jenkins
If any of you know these individuals personally and care to invite them to fly over the Turf Farm, I'm sure it would help, as it did for Ms. Esterheld.
There's been a terrific response from Freeway users so far! Let's keep up the pressure!!
From: "Martha Ainsworth" <email@example.com>
Subject: New Land Use Regs around airports delayed by the Planning Board
Date: Sat, 12 May 2001 09:26:56 -0400
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.2314.1300
Below is an update on the situation--a summary of the draft regulations and
a report on the May 10th Planning Board Meeting. To cut to the chase, the regulations
have been stalled, and will be reconsidered in two weeks, Thursday, May 24th,
after all the landowners affected by the zoning are notified. If the regulations
are not acted upon by the Planning Board on the 24th, they will not reach the
County Council before they recess for the summer. Your written or spoken input
to the Planning Board on Thursday the 24th is critical.
Summary of the draft Manual
The draft Manual of Regulations for Land use around General Aviation Airports in Prince George's County (dated May 3) is very well researched and is consistent with our recommendations to the county planning office. (Copies should be available at the Freeway office as of Saturday May 12th.) To summarize, it recommends:
--> In APAs 1 and 2, no new residential construction on lots of any size , with two exceptions: (1) a home can be constructed on a lot of less than 5 acres in APA 2 if it was recorded prior to enactment of the legislation, on a Site Plan basis; and (2) the back yard of a residence in an adjoining APA can extend into APA2. The only uses approved in APA 2 (unless a dwelling is already there) are one-story commercial or industrial structures and low-intensity recreational use (golf course, riding stable, passive park), both on a Site Plan basis, and open space.
-->In APAs 3 and 4, new single family detached dwellings are allowed on a Site Plan basis on lots 5 acres or greater, or on a lot of less than 5 acres in a subdivision designed in accordance with APA guidelines for lot location, density and open space, or on a lot of less than 5 acres recorded prior to enacting the regulations. Commercial or industrial structures of any height and structure parking are allowed on a SP basis in these zones as well.
The Planning Board meeting
Planning Board members present included Chairwoman Elizabeth Hewlett, and Commissioners Lowe, Brown, and Ely. Craig Rovelstad and Wendy Irminger gave an excellent presentation to the Planning Board that included the history of the project, the rationale for their recommendations, and evidence that they had already researched which landowners would be impacted and in which cases mitigation measures would be possible. They were smattered with questions throughout, but it was during the last part that Commissioner Lowe compared the draft manual with creating a new type of 'wetlands' that would affect development potential of landowners. He asked whether they had contacted or notified each and every landowner potentially impacted of the final recommendations. Rovelstad and Irminger had contacted everyone within a 1-mile radius of the airports for the public meetings on the consultant report and had had conversations with specific landowners, but since the draft manual was issued on May 3rd there was no notification of the May 10th meeting or of the contents of the regulations.
At that point, Chairwoman Elizabeth Hewlett suggested that the Planning Board agree to hear the rest of the presentation and the comments of those who had come to testify, but put a hold on a decision on the regulations until those affected could each be notified. Concern was expressed that this delay could effectively prevent the County Council from taking up this issue before the end of the summer. It was then decided that this notification could occur in the next week and the regulations could again be considered by the Planning Board at the May 24th meeting. Further delays beyond this date would eliminate chances it is taken up this summer.
There were four speakers, in favor. Stanley Rodenhauser spoke forcefully on two issues -- first, he told the Planning Board that the airport is not going to close, he is not selling the land, and he intends for his land to remain an airport as long as he's around and into the next generation. This was in response to a suggestion made by a firefighter at the Bowie stakeholder meeting on the Rouse Phase II preliminary sketch plan that the airport could go out of business or be sold to developers. (Stanley could not attend that meeting.) Second, he noted his family's roots in the county, the contribution of the airport to the local economy and said that he is willing to work with the Planning Board for amicable solutions. He also pointed out that this legislation was decades too late -- it should have been under discussion in the 1960s, before development crept out to the airports.
Since the Planning Board had previously received my letter with detailed comments on the consultant report, I made only one additional point: in enacting the land use regulations, the Planning Board would be reducing the number of accidents in the future. For an accident to occur, a plane must be damaged and/or people severely or fatally injured. Off-airport landings that do not result in damage or injury are not reported as accidents. The more obstructions there are at the end of the runway, the greater the likelihood that an off-airport landing will become an accident. One of the reasons why Freeway Airport, with a (corrected) accident rate of 0.85 per 100,000 operations is the lowest in the county is because there are so few obstructions, particularly over the turf farm. Even so, of the six accidents on the Turf Farm since 1965, four involved collisions with trees -- the only obstructions! If we were to go back to 1965 and had Levitt put another section of Bowie in what is now the Turf Farm, re-living all of the takeoffs and landings of those 35 years with no other changes, there would have been many more accidents. The regulations will not only protect people on the ground and in the aircraft, they will actually prevent accidents from happening.
David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield, echoed the sentiment that the legislation is long overdue and that the longer we wait, the more difficult it gets. He also reiterated the point about the relation between obstructions-- both trees and structures -- and the accident rate. Harry Moore, pilot at College Park and one of the three members of the citizen advisory committee, spoke last in support of the measures, noting that general aviation airports are disappearing at the rate of one per week in the US, and he's seen three close recently in Maryland because of encroachment issues. The other two advisory committee members --Derrick Davis and Daryll Kelly -- could not attend and sent letters, which we're trying to get copies of. Catherine Fairchild, a Freeway pilot from Mitchellville, also attended but had to leave before the testimony. There were no speakers in opposition. The Rouse lawyer, Ed Gibbs, was present in the back of the room for part of the deliberations, but did not speak. Al Edwards, development director for Rouse was also spotted in the building but wasn't in the hearing room. (However, there is room in another part of the building where one can listen to the deliberations without being seen.)
ALL OF THE AFFECTED LANDOWNERS AT THE END OF THE RUNWAYS AT THE FOUR AIRPORTS WILL RECEIVE NOTICES OF THE MAY 24TH MEETING AND MANY CAN BE EXPECTED TO SHOW UP OR WRITE IN OPPOSITION.
According to discussions with others at the Planning Board meeting, this is not the standard approach -- usually this type of public hearing of people in favor or opposed occurs after the Planning Board sends it to the County Council. They are trying to cover themselves on this. With respect to the next meeting, the goal should be adoption of the proposal --- a further delay will be very detrimental. WE URGENTLY NEED AS MANY OF YOU AS POSSIBLE TO ATTEND THE MAY 24TH MEETING AND SPEAK IN FAVOR OR, IF YOU CAN'T COME, TO WRITE TO CHMN. HEWLETT IN FAVOR OF THE REGULATIONS.
COPIES OF THE REGULATIONS ARE IN THE FREEWAY AIRPORT OFFICE AND ALSO IN THE BOWIE LIBRARY. The hearing will be on Thursday, May 24, beginning at 9 am at the County Administration Building, 14741 Gov. Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772. The discussion of the regulations probably will not start until around 10. It could take most of the morning. The address for Hon. Elizabeth Hewlett, Chairman of the Prince George's County Planning Board, is the same.