Redevelopment of Bowie’s Freeway Airport on hold after legal decision

In 2019, the owners of Bowie’s Freeway Airport in Prince George’s County won a controversial vote at the county council level that rezoned the land it sits on to allow for much greater density.

Developers were planning to build more than 500 new town homes on the site of the Freeway Airport, to go with over 100 single family homes. But now those plans are on hold.

(1/2)

In 2019, the owners of Bowie’s Freeway Airport in Prince George’s County won a controversial vote at the county council level that rezoned the land it sits on to allow for much greater density.

Similar to the neighborhoods it sits near, currently it’s zoned to allow one house for every two acres of land. The zoning change would have allowed 10 times as much density. Developers were planning to build more than 500 new town homes on the site, to go with over 100 single family homes. But now those plans are on hold.

Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals, the second highest court in the state, has overturned lower court decisions that allowed the rezoning to go forward, saying it “unlawfully violates the uniformity requirement, and therefore is illegal and unenforceable.”

For Milly Hall, who leads the group Concerned Citizens of PG County District 4 and The Surrounding Area, it brings a lot of satisfaction.

“They literally laughed at us,” said Hall, when residents promised to sue if the county approved the change.



“We like the airport; the airport can stay,” Hall said. “But even if they didn’t stay, we still believe single-family homes are OK. We’re OK with smart growth. We’re not against growth and building. We just don’t want overgrowth.”

The county has made safety improvements to Church Road, which crosses over Route 50, after several new neighborhoods were constructed. But, it’s still a two-lane, heavily wooded road.

“We have all the research. All the accidents on Church Road — because it’s not built for all this traffic,” Hall said.

“Their lawyer,” Hall said, “would always say ‘the airplanes, they’re killing people and all these accidents,’” but she pointed out that it was a car that struck and killed a teenager less than a mile north of the airport that same year.

Meanwhile, the decision from the Court of Special Appeals noted that on one hand, the airport’s owners said if they couldn’t rezone the land for greater density in order to sell to developers, they would have to increase activity at the airport, seemingly contradicting any concerns about safety.

Ruling that the rezoning was made to look like it wasn’t being done specifically for the airport, Judge Sally Adkins wrote, “No other airport properties that could qualify under CB-17 are mentioned in the record.

“The airport owners have essentially bullied the Council by claiming that — as holders of a nonconforming, allegedly dangerous, airport — they will intensify the usage, making it more dangerous, unless the Council accords them the density of their choice.”

WTOP reached out to both the owner of the airport and her lawyer on multiple occasions for comment, but there was no response. It’s not clear whether the airport will appeal the ruling to the Maryland Court of Appeals, sell the land under the terms of its original zoning or follow through on efforts to expand operations.

WTOP’s Ivy Lyons contributed to this report.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up