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Overview of Existing Zoning Tools

Overlay Zones

The Transit District Overlay Zone (TDOZ) was originally designed for use adjacent to Metro/transit stations to promote the use of public transit facilities, encourage transit-oriented development adjacent to transit stations, and to increase the return on investment in the transit system. The TDOZ requires the creation of a Transit District Development Plan (TDDP).

The Development District Overlay Zone (DDOZ) was designed for selected development areas to introduce and foster vertical and horizontal mixed-use development. DDOZs are implemented and administered through a comprehensive zoning map amendment (a Sectional Map Amendment, typically produced concurrently with a Master Plan or Sector Plan).

Both of these overlay zones are design-oriented in that they place a great deal of emphasis on architectural detailing, and they precede the approval of the 2002 General Plan. Although intended to give direction to landowners and the county during the development review process, their application to date has been inconsistent, occasionally contradicting both the General Plan and applicable Master Plan and Sector Plan recommendations for land use. Administration of these tools has been difficult because of their complexity, and continued use is discouraged.

Mixed-Use Zones

The Mixed-Use Infill (M-U-I) Zone was approved in 2002 to allow for mixed-use development and promote Smart Growth principles by encouraging the efficient use of land, public facilities, and services in areas that are substantially developed. It is the newest zone in the county Zoning Ordinance. The M-U-I Zone typically requires the use of an overlay zone (DDOZ or TDOZ), but may also be used on property owned by a municipality or by the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County, without the presence of an overlay zone. Where the M-U-I Zone has been used with an overlay zone it has been difficult to establish and inconsistently applied to development projects. Despite its drawbacks, the M-U-I Zone is currently considered by staff to be perhaps the best mixed-use tool available to the county.

The Mixed Use—Transportation Oriented (M-X-T) Zone was established to promote mixed-use development and redevelopment of land in the vicinity of major interchanges, major intersections, and major transit stops. The M-X-T Zone requires at least two out of three uses (office, retail, and/or residential). However, there is little guidance on the form of mixed-use development. The application of this zone has often resulted in an unsatisfactory product with little to no mix of uses, but mostly residential development only. The M-X-T Zone does not require the use of an overlay zone, and is scattered throughout the county.

The Mixed-Use Town Center (M-U-TC) Zone was established for the redevelopment or creation of town centers. It is intended to ensure a mix of commercial and residential uses, and to establish a safe and vibrant 24-hour environment where the preservation and adaptive reuse of selected buildings in older commercial areas is promoted. The M-U-TC Zone requires concurrent drafting of a development concept plan. There are currently four M-U-TC areas in Prince George’s County, three along the US 1 Corridor in the northern portion of the county and the fourth in Suitland, adjacent to and including most of the Suitland Federal Center.

Administration of the M-U-TC Zone requires a great deal of staff time. It was originally intended to function with the active involvement of a municipality and a citizen design review committee. In areas where there is no municipality, such as Suitland, administration of this tool has the potential to overwhelm staff that must take a larger role in the process.

Comprehensive Design Zones (CDZs) are a group of zoning tools intended to encourage the optimal and imaginative utilization of land to improve the total environment, lessen public costs associated with land development, and fulfill area plan recommendations. CDZs may be found throughout the county, and development in a CDZ often takes the form of single-use development. Findings required for development are vague and open to broad interpretation.

There are nine classifications of Comprehensive Design Zones, ranging from low-density residential development with a base density of 0.5 dwelling units to the acre, to Major Activity Centers that allow a density of up to 125 dwelling units per acre.

The process for development in these zones is complex, with construction typically, but not always, subject to site plan review, either Conceptual and Detailed Site Plan review. In the case of the CDZs, a three-tiered review process consisting of a Basic Plan of development, Comprehensive Design Plan, and Specific Design Plan, is required. Development in the M-U-TC Zone is typically a permit-review process that is first submitted to the citizen design review committees established for each M-U-TC area. Two of the DDOZ plans allow for permit review in lieu of site plan review when certain conditions are met, and all overlay zones contain certain exemptions to the requirement for site plan review.