Laurel Mall owners dodged storm-water regulations bullet


July 06, 2011

Last month, the Prince George's County Council decided not to impose strict storm-water management standards and instead passed a bill with marginal improvements that delayed for years responsible storm-water standards that are already in place in neighboring jurisdictions likeMontgomery County.

That decision was truly disappointing, for our environment and our county's image, both of which are in dire need of rehabilitation. And despite the expressed (and I believe, genuine) intent of County Executive Rushern Baker to restore integrity throughout county government, a decision like that essentially says that county government still kowtows to developers.

To add insult to that injury comes the news that the Laurel Mall's renovation might be "allowed to be grandfathered in under the old, less-strict" storm-water regulations ("Storm-water bill could lift cloud over mall," Leader, June 30.).

It is disingenuous, as well as an insult to the intelligence of those of us who have endured years of the sad tale of Laurel Mall, for the current owners to say that storm-water legislation is "the break they need" to move the renovation forward. Years of inaction by the mall's revolving-door group of owners and developers have sorely tried the patience of Laurel's city residents and government. City leaders have bent over backwards to accommodate the developers, entertaining differing proposals as the mall changed hands and developers: offering extensions of time, TIFs (tax increment financing) and other incentives in a frustrating effort to make something — anything — happen for that ailing retail dinosaur. Residents have attended multiple presentations and listened to numerous "visions" for that property. All the while, the facility continued to deteriorate to its present sorry state.

As a close neighbor of the mall, I eagerly look forward to the day renovations begin. But I urge city officials, who are equally eager, not to let the developer-du jour, Greenberg Gibbons Commercial, grandfather their way to contributing to the continued fouling of Laurel Lake and the Patuxent River.

Instead, the city government should adopt storm-water management standards that are more stringent than the watered-down standards just passed by the County Council. Doing so will send the strongest message that this riverside town cherishes the river and is doing all it can to protect it and the Bay; it will tell the county, the state of Maryland and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed extending well into New York that, to the city of Laurel, the river matters.

Mike McLaughlin


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