Business As Usual & Sprawl

Contrary to the 2002 Prince George’s County Approved General Plan’s development objectives and regional trends to cluster employment in transit-accessible urban centers, the majority of recent development in the County occurred in suburban locations outside the Capital Beltway and outside of designated growth centers and corridors. Forecasts predict this undesirable pattern is likely to continue perpetuating sprawl, constraining economic growth, and straining public resources. There are approximately 17,000 units that have been approved, but not yet built (see Map 7). This five-year construction backlog is concentrated outside designated growth centers far from existing transit networks and threatens to cement the County’s sprawling development pattern. The location and magnitude of the pipeline will continue to strain the County’s resources and impact Prince Georgians’ quality of life, health, mobility options, and economic opportunities.

Sprawling Development Patterns

The costs of sprawling development patterns have been the subject of numerous studies. While the methodologies, scale, scope, and purpose of the studies have varied widely, there is general agreement that sprawl is a more costly form of development than compact growth. The tangible costs of sprawl can easily be measured from a financial standpoint. Per capita, geographically dispersed or sprawling development typically requires greater physical infrastructure (such as longer roads and water and sewer extensions), and the provision of public services are provided over large geographic areas namely: 

  • Bus and transit
  • Emergency services  
  • Fire
  • Police
  • Schools

Compact Area Benefits

In contrast, compact areas, due to the density and intensity of their development, require the construction of less infrastructure and can more easily share existing public services, effectively reducing the extent of road and utility construction maintenance and the number of needed bus routes, police, fire, and emergency medical services stations. Compact areas typically create greater economic activity and more jobs per acre than sprawling development, which generates a higher proportion of tax revenue in relationship to the amount of land that they consume.