HIAs are mandated for new development projects in Prince George’s County, Maryland (County Bill CB-41-2011). This legislation builds health into policies, provides a tool to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases and injuries, and requests that the county Planning Board refer site plans at specific stages to the county Health Department for HIA review.
The county Health Department conducted an HIA to inform implementation of a new Transit District Development Plan (TDDP) and Transit District Overlay Zone (TDOZ) map amendment for the College Park/University of Maryland Metro and MARC Station area.
The HIA found that the current TDDP and TDOZ proposal does not provide sufficient mitigation strategies for potential adverse effects of mixed-use development in the flood plain. The HIA recommended that development of residential buildings be avoided in the portion of the project area that is designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Maryland as a 100-year flood plain property unless the construction can include elements to survive a 100-year storm, such as parking structures at ground level (rather than underground) and flood control measures.
The project area has no residential component, but the TDDP proposes high-density housing. The HIA recommended that the new residential development take into account the character, diversity, culture, and history of adjacent neighborhoods to promote connectivity and social cohesion. It also recommended improved access that creates opportunities to move easily through adjacent neighborhoods and into the project area, mitigating potential isolation and improving access to healthy food choices and housing and opportunities for physical activity.
The HIA found that the project plan’s proposal for open and green spaces will provide increased opportunities for physical activity. Related sustainability and eco-strategies included in the plan can help buffer the impact from increasingly strong storm events, diminish urban heat island effects, and improve air quality by reducing pollutants.
The HIA recommended a satellite community health venue, such as a joint Health and Human Services-Health Department location, in the project area because of greater accessibility via the planned Purple Line. This will provide increased access to supportive health services such as immunizations and vaccinations in an underserved area.
This effort is part of the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ Health Impact Assessment Mentorship Project. The mentor is James Dills of the Georgia Health Policy Center, Georgia State University.