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Suburban Governments Protesting Bill to Restrict Building Heights

July 9, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Representatives of local governments in the capital area said Wednesday that congressional legislation to restrict building height limits is bad policy that would infringe on state’s rights.

A resolution passed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ board of directors by a 14-1 margin urged Congress to reject the bill, proposed by Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif.

″The legislation would make bad law and policy,″ the resolution said. ″It violates the cooperative federalism principle by displacing the deference given to the states in exercising their fundamental sovereign power accorded to them under the Constitution.″

The Senate bill would establish height limits of 65 feet, 180 feet or 400 feet in three different areas of surburban Maryland and Virginia. A federal surtax of $1 million per foot would be placed on buildings, constructed after June 10, which exceed the height limits. A similar bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The legislation was sparked by the planned PortAmerica development in Prince George’s County, Md. - a project which includes plans for a 750-foot skyscraper that would sit seven miles away from the Washington Monument.

Cranston and other critics maintain the tower would overshadow the monumental corps of the nation’s capital and pose a threat to incoming aircraft. They say the bill is necessary to protect the federal interest.

But local leaders say the bill would limit the ability of local governments to plan and develop their own communities.

″We see this issue as one dealing with a principle, not just one project,″ said Prince George’s County Council Member Hilda Pemberton. ″We are not interested in taking anything away from our national monuments.″

The height restrictions would affect portions of Arlington County, Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria in Virginia and Prince George’s and Charles counties in Maryland.

The Council of Government’s resolution said the panel will ask the National Capital Planning Commission and other federal planning agencies to consider developing guidelines on building heights in areas where development could affect historic buildings and monuments.

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