The Prince George's County Zoning Ordinance stipulates a process which must be followed in preparing the General Plan, area master plans, small area plans and functional plans. The steps in this process are summarized below. (Some of these steps are not required for two types of small area plans, specifically minor public facility amendments and transit district development plans.) Currently, sectional map amendments (comprehensive rezonings of the subject area) are undertaken in conjunction with the preparation of area master plans and small area plans and follow this same procedural sequence:
- Initiation: The District Council authorizes the Planning Board to prepare a plan when it approves the Planning Department's annual work program. The board then directs staff to proceed.
- Public Forum: The first public involvement in the plan preparation process occurs at a public forum. The purposes of the forum are to notify the community that a plan is underway, encourage citizen participation and solicit issues that the plan should address. A notification is sent to all property owners in the planning area advising them of the forum and inviting public testimony. Notice is also given in the County's newspapers of record. A background information brochure, which also contains issues proposed for study, is made available to the public in advance of the forum.
- Goals, Concepts and Guidelines: Following the public forum, the Planning Board submits goals, concepts and guidelines to the District Council for approval and authorization to proceed with the plan.
- Public Participation Program: Also following the public forum, the Planning Board prepares a public participation program for approval by the District Council. The program must encourage a balance of participation by the area's citizens and businesses affected by the plan, to include property owners, area civic associations, local business groups, interest groups, government agencies and any municipality situated within the area covered by the plan. The program also includes techniques to keep the larger affected community informed.
- Preparation of a Preliminary (Draft) Plan: Preparation of the preliminary plan is the responsibility of Planning Board staff. Plans are developed through a team effort, combining the talents of professionals with expertise in such areas as land use, transportation, environmental and public facilities planning. The goals, concepts and guidelines approved by the District Council provide the general framework that guides staff during the process. Staff considers all testimony presented at the public forum, as well as feedback from the public which arises from the public participation program. Federal, State, County and municipal agencies whose current or future activities may impact the planning area are also involved.
- Public Hearing: The District Council and the Planning Board must conduct at least one joint public hearing on the preliminary plan. The purpose of the public hearing is to allow citizens and other interested parties an opportunity to offer their recommendations and suggestions before the plan is finalized.
- Before publishing the preliminary plan for public hearing, the Planning Board must submit the draft text to the District Council and County Executive to determine if there are any inconsistencies between the plan proposals and existing County and State policies relating to public facility programming. Any inconsistencies must be eliminated or accommodated prior to release of the plan.
- Following this review by the council and executive, the preliminary plan is printed. The plans are then made available to the public, free of charge, at distribution points in the community. Notice of the hearing is mailed to all property owners in the planning area. The hearing is also advertised in the County's newspapers of record.
- All written and oral testimony and any supporting evidence presented at the hearing becomes part of the official record. The record is typically, but not necessarily, kept open for a period of time (not to exceed 15 calendar days) after the hearing. Additional materials may be submitted during this period.
- Adoption by the Planning Board: After the close of the public hearing record, the Planning Department staff prepares and transmits an analysis of the testimony to the Planning Board. The Planning Board then considers the testimony, makes any changes which it deems fit and adopts the plan. The adopted plan and analysis of testimony are then transmitted to the District Council.
- Additional Public Hearing: The District Council must hold an additional public hearing if it wishes to make changes to the adopted plan. The notification and advertising requirements are the same as for the original hearing.
- Final Action by the District Council: Following receipt of the adopted plan or after the additional public hearing, if held, the council either:
- Approves the adopted plan as submitted by the Planning Board
- Approves the plan with amendments
- Disapproves the plan and returns it to the Planning Board for further consideration