Prince Georgians Elated about State Agency Move

James Wright | 6/23/2010, 9:47 a.m.

The relocation of a key state agency from the Annapolis area to Prince George's County has its leaders excited about the potential for further development and economic growth in the county.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced, Fri., June 18 that the Department of Housing and Community Development will move from its Crownsville, Md. location to a site that has yet to be determined in Prince George's County.
O'Malley made the announcement at the Naylor Road Metro Station in Temple Hills, Md., flanked by state and county leaders. The move was necessary because of the changing needs of the county as well as the state, he said.

"Prince George's County is the second biggest county in our state," O'Malley, 47, said.

"Yet in the 375 year history of our state, it has not been home to the headquarters of a state agency, until now. Today's announcement fulfills a commitment we made to the people of Prince George's County four years ago."

O'Malley further said that the mission of the agency squares with the needs of the county.

"It moves an agency dedicated to revitalizing communities to an area of our state that is rich in history and diversity, capitalizes on the infrastructure investments we've made as One Maryland, and has the potential to spark even more in private development and job creation throughout the county."
The department is led by Raymond Skinner, as its secretary, and has more than 330 employees.

The move will be an inconvenience to about a third of its workforce that lives close to Crownsville, but Skinner does not foresee any problems.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a resident of Mitchellville, Md., and a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, said that O'Malley's move is an example of supporting transit-oriented development in the county.

Transit-oriented development is a Washington, D.C. region wide unofficial policy of developing areas surrounding Metro stations for commercial and residential growth.

In Prince George's County, it means that development will take place around 14 Metro stations that have been targeted by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the county's planning department.

"The decision to relocate the Department of Housing and Community Development in Prince George's County highlights our shared commitment to the people of Prince George's County and the Smart Growth principles that we share," Brown, 48, said.

"Governor O'Malley understands the importance of transit-oriented development and the creation of livable, sustainable communities and is leading by example."

The relocation was the result of a process that started in 2008, when the Maryland General Assembly created a task force to study the matter of a state agency in Prince George's County. It was led by Earl Adams, a political activist and an officer in the county's NAACP, who serves as Brown's chief of staff.

In January of this year, the task force issued its final report to O'Malley recommending the Department of Housing and Community Development for relocation to the county. The Military Department, which is housed in Baltimore City, was also considered a potential Prince George's site.

"We decided that the Department of Housing would be a better fit for Prince George's because of the issues regarding housing and foreclosure in the county and the Military Department had internal issues with its spot in Baltimore," Adams , 34, and a resident of Fort Washington, said.

Arthur Turner, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for County Council seat District 6 in the upcoming Sept. 14 election and president of the Coalition of Central Prince George's County Community Organizations, has advocated for federal and state agencies to come to the county for more than 15 years.

"I have raised this issue day and night," Turner, 52, of Kettering, said.

"I realized that with a federal and state agency and the good paying jobs that come with the agency locating in the county would have a positive benefit to the county. As a result, we would have the much needed jobs and we would have an increased tax base."

Turner said that an increased tax base would provide better pay for county workers.

Terry Speigner, chairman of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, said that Turner was one of the leaders in the effort to get the Ehrlich administration to move the Department of Planning to the county in 2004. However, the agency move was not supported by the Maryland Board of Public Works, he said.

In 2006, O'Malley and Brown, in election mode, promised county leaders, including Turner, that they would put an agency in Prince George's County during their first term.

Although, it required continuous pressure, Turner said that the effort paid off.

"Hard work, determination, focus and perseverance have their rewards," he said.

"I applaud O'Malley and Brown for their efforts. They genuinely care about the people of Prince George's County and our need to have jobs and an increased tax base."

Speigner, 43, said that the relocation of the Housing Department benefits not only those in the county but throughout the state as well.

"Let's say that you live in Baltimore and you need to come to the Department of Housing to discuss a matter," he said.

"You will be able to get on the MARC train and come into the D.C. area and then get on the Metro and get right off at the station to come to the department. That will be good for everyone."