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Finding Meaning in the Meeting

Mia Simon
Rising Junior, Broadcast Journalism
University of Maryland

The Plan Prince George’s 2035 Town Hall Meeting was held on June 15, 2013—two weeks after I started my internship at the Prince George’s County Planning Board Public Affairs Office of the M-NCPPC. I was not fully aware of all that goes into planning such a large event, or the process of coming up with a plan to develop a county with such a diverse population.

As a resident of Prince George’s County for over 10 years, I believed that I knew the county very well—specifically the central region. I started my internship with an overzealous confidence in my knowledge of Prince George’s County that would soon be toned down after I got to participate in the meeting.

The General Plan team has been working to pinpoint areas all over Prince George’s County that could house a ‘downtown’ area for residents and stakeholders. Transit-oriented development or TOD areas (a new term that I had no idea about until this town hall event) are the areas that General Plan team members believe are the best places to start looking at.

The chosen areas were split into two groups; the high performers, sites that show potential for a ‘downtown’ as they exist today, and the game changers, areas that could see growth in the near future that could only add to their appeal for a ‘downtown.’ Participants got to see how the Plan Prince George’s 2035 team chose the given options through a series of presentations.

New Carrollton was the highest ranking high performer. That did not surprise me, seeing that it functions as the station that services a huge employer and the county as well as house a number of other transit systems like the MARC and Amtrak trains.

The second highest ranking high performer was College Park station, a stop that I readily use because I am a student at the University of Maryland. Having a metropolis in that area would be great, so that I wouldn’t have to travel as far to have fun with friends.

The next stop on the green line of the Metro, Prince George’s Plaza, rounded out the high performer list. The area already holds a shopping center that could potentially be transformed into a downtown area, for all residents and stakeholders to enjoy.

But all of that is just my opinion, I thought. I had no firm background in planning and did not have true, tangible reasoning as to why these places were prime places for development. This is where the planners came into play.

The General Plan team came up with a list of criteria, ranging from walkability to jobs, that was used to come up with this listing. Looking at areas for potential development can be a long process, as the team pointed during the meeting (hence, this is the 2035 plan—it won’t happen overnight.) Working with residents and stakeholders, however, will help to make the process go faster, and hopefully be successful.

But back to the meeting. It was reassuring to know that my opinions were reinforced by concrete, factual information from the General Plan team. Even more so, I appreciated that the team listed other options that should be considered as a place to develop a potential ‘downtown’—places that I never would have thought about.

All of this information was put into presentations and broken down even more so by speakers who have been a part of the planning process since the beginning. I did not feel like I was being talked to—I was simply being added to the team; the team that wants Prince George’s County to grow for all persons, in all parts of the county.

On another note, it was great to see people work with each other to better understand the process. I was afforded the opportunity to take pictures at the event, and capture photos of such a diverse environment become such an inclusive space. (And that’s not an opinion—to see more the statistics of who attended the meeting, click here.)

This is just the beginning, though. I still have a lot to learn if I really want to be ‘knowledgeable’—22 years to be exact.  But this time, I will have the help of the Plan Prince George’s 2035 team. So now that I’ve given all of you my opinion, I hope that you will make yours. Visit http://planpgc2035.com/.

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What kind of a community does Prince George’s want to be? How do we map a strategy and what role do key issues such as economic development, transit, and infrastructure play in how we get there? Learn More >>