Types of Plans & Their Characteristics

There are 4 types of plans in Prince George's County. These are:
  • General Plan and Biennial Growth Policy Plan (which is countywide in scope)
  • Area master plans and subregional plans (which pertain to particular geographical areas within the county)
  • Small area or sector plans (which address special issues in geographic areas that are smaller than a planning area)
  • Functional plans (which are countywide in scope, but pertain to a single type of service or activity, such as schools, transportation, or public safety
a.) The General Plan & Biennial Growth Policy Plan
Prince George's County has adopted 3 countywide general plans, one in 1964, another in 1982 and, as an interim general plan, the Biennial Growth Policy Plan, adopted in November 2000. The 1964 General Plan made general recommendations for the location, type and intensities of different land uses (residential, commercial and employment). The 1982 General Plan, on the other hand, concentrated on development policies (instead of delineating specific land uses) with decisions about the location and intensity of development being left to area master plans.

In 1998, the Prince George's County Council produced a report entitled Managing Growth in the 21st Century: A Smart Growth Proposal for Prince George's County. The Council found that the 1982 General Plan was no longer adequate to guide future county growth and development. In particular, the council cited the lack of effective plan implementation, the loss of countywide perspective and the emphasis on new development as opposed to the protection and revitalization of older, established areas.

In order to address these and other development-related issues, the council established a 53-member, broad-based advisory group named Commission 2000 to make recommendations concerning the county's future growth and development. After 18 months of study and deliberations over the course of nearly 40 meetings, Commission 2000 published a draft report of its consensus recommendations. The County Council held a public hearing, considered testimony, made amendments and adopted the Commission's findings as the Biennial Growth Policy Plan and interim general plan.

The Biennial Growth Policy Plan is a comprehensive smart growth initiative that utilizes a system of growth tiers, corridors and centers to guide future land use and development in Prince George's County. The three tiers encompass the developed, developing and rural areas of the county. The plan also recommends policy overlays to encourage revitalization of older communities and to protect environmental resources. These tiers, centers, corridors and overlays provide the basis for both managing the pace of development and for the type of development that is planned for the future.

While serving as an interim general plan, the Biennial Growth Policy Plan also recognizes the need to prepare more detailed, countywide policy guidance for future development. Therefore, the plan recommends that the General Plan be updated to more fully reflect the policies set forth in the Biennial Growth Policy Plan. Preparation of a new General Plan is now underway.

b.) Area Master Plans
For planning purposes, Prince George's County has been divided into seven subregions which are further divided into planning areas. There are a total of 36 planning areas in the County. Each planning area is a fairly cohesive district that is typically bounded by a major highway, political boundary and/or a natural border such as a stream valley. Area master plans may be prepared for an individual planning area, group of planning areas or entire subregions.

Area master plans consist of a plan map along with supporting data, text and other maps. They provide specific recommendations on the environment, historic preservation, living areas and housing, commercial areas, employment areas, urban design, circulation and transportation (including highways and mass transit), and public facilities. Where appropriate, some plans may cover additional issues such as sand and gravel mining or neighborhood revitalization.

Area master plans also address the adequacy of public facilities. Land use proposals are analyzed for their impact on schools, police, fire, rescue, libraries, health, parks and trails. Recommendations are then made to correct any projected deficiencies of these public services and assets. In addition, a study is undertaken of the balance between the proposed land uses and the proposed transportation system. This assists in preventing the overzoning of an area with high traffic-generating uses.

The master plans are the final authority on highway and mass transit right-of-way land reservations. The planned land uses become the basis for decisions on where new schools, fire stations and other public facilities will be needed in the future. Area master plans are also used to guide decisions on zoning change, special exception and subdivision applications. Finally, probably the most important function of the area master plans is that they are used as the basis for comprehensive rezoning. The result of the comprehensive rezoning process is a new zoning map for the subject area which is called a sectional map amendment.

(c) Small Area Plans
In some instances it is desirable to prepare a master plan for an area that is smaller than a planning area or that consists only of portions of several adjacent planning areas. This typically occurs because of some special situation that requires a plan for a limited geographic area. For example, the construction of the Metrorail system has changed the expected land uses in the vicinity of the Metrorail stations. The Planning Board has responded by preparing a number of transit district development plans. These plans establish land use and zoning for properties within approximately a one-half mile radius of the stations.

Another type of small area plan is the sector plan. A sector plan often involves a specific land use evaluation for a portion of major corridors or economically-viable focus areas such as town centers or highway intersections.

d.) Functional Plans
There are also a number of plans which comprehensively cover a specific topic for the entire County. These are referred to as functional plans. The major functional plans are:
  1. Master Plan of Transportation - The Master Plan of Transportation which was approved by the Council in 1982 and amended by subsequently approved master plans, is a comprehensive document which contains the transportation facility recommendations needed to support the policies in the General Plan and area master plans.
  2. Countywide Trails Plan -Approved in July 1975, this documents seeks to establish a network of pedestrian, equestrian, and bicycle trails for the county. An amendment of this plan, aimed at expanding the equestrian trail system, was approved in 1984. This plan has been further amended by subsequently approved area master plans.
  3. Public Safety Master Plan - Approved in July 1990, this document addresses the facility needs of the Police and Fire Departments, the Sheriff's Office, the Corrections Department, and the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
  4. Historic Sites and Districts Plan - Approved in 1981, the Historic Sites and Districts Plan is aimed at preserving the county's heritage. In addition to recommending preservation goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria, the plan identifies more than 500 historic resources. Pursuant to the recommendations of the plan, an Historic Preservation Commission was established to oversee preservation of the county's historic resources, and to review and make recommendations on development proposals which affect historic sites.
  5. The 10-Year Water and Sewerage Plan and the Comprehensive 10 Year Solid Waste Management Plan are like functional plans, but they are prepared by the county government (rather than the M-NCPPC) under separate State legislation.
10-Year Water & Sewerage Plan
Since 1970, the County has been required to prepare and annually update a 10-year plan and program for the extension of water and sewer service. The 10-Year Water and Sewerage Plan is the central County policy statement as to where, when and at what rate growth can be expected to occur. The plan has been used as a major guide to master plan staging and is considered in zoning decisions and the granting of subdivision approvals. The plan is also the major guide to the programming of other public facilities in the Capital Improvement Program, particularly with respect to providing services to new development.

Comprehensive 10 Year Solid Waste Management Plan
Initiated in 1974 in response to State regulations, this plan sets forth a comprehensive program designed to meet the county's present and future solid waste disposal requirements. The goal of the plan is to provide the best available service while protecting public health and preventing environmental pollution. Encompassing the entire county, the plan deals with current and anticipated sources of solid waste, disposal facilities and sites, and economies of scale.

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