Maryland Planning Secretary Rich Hall Resigns

A January 21 Maryland Department of Planning press release announced the immediate resignation of Secretary of Planning Richard Hall, who will be replaced by former Harford County Executive and MACo President David Craig.  From the press release:

As leader of the Maryland Department of Planning, Hall’s role was to serve as the state’s point person on smart growth. …

He spent his state planning career working to protect the best of Maryland in the face of unrelenting population growth. He approached that work from the interrelated issues of community revitalization and land preservation – what he called two sides of the “smart growth coin.”

Early in his role as secretary, and taking his cue from the governor’s office, Hall focused on preservation efforts. He was instrumental in helping pass and implement policies strengthening natural resource protection, along with many partners in state agencies and the advocacy community. More recently, Hall focused on revitalization of Maryland’s built areas, with a focus on rebuilding downtowns.

The press release also detailed Hall’s accomplishments as Secretary and his over two decade tenure with MDP.


Sustainable Growth Commission Briefs Environment & Transportation Committee

Jon Laria, Chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission, briefed members of the House Environment and Transportation Committee on January 20 about the nature and activities of the Commission.

Commission Chair Jon Laria described the history and makeup of the of the 34-member independent advisory body that studies Smart Growth and land use issues, noting that the Commission lacks regulatory authority.  Laria also discussed the activities of the Commission’s workgroups, including: (1) Concentrating Growth; (2) Education; (3) PlanMaryland; (4) Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances; (5) Indicators; (6) Housing; and (7) Rural Economies.

Referencing PlanMaryland, Laria noted that it had “become a lighting rod” but was essentially a “horizontal” document that sought to improve coordination among State agencies.  He expressed doubt that PlanMaryland would ever become more “vertical” and deal directly with local land use decisions.

Laria also spent time detailing the Commission’s Reinvest Maryland report, which recommends focusing growth efforts on infill, redevelopment, and revitalization as opposed to green field development.  He stressed that “one size doesn’t fit all”  and Smart Growth policies could benefit all jurisdictions but “just may look a little different” depending on whether you are in an urban, suburban, or rural setting.

He concluded his presentation by asserting there many opportunities for cooperation and collaboration among land use stakeholder and that the Commission was dedicated to “finding common ground.”

Video of Committee Briefing (Note: The audio appears to be corrupted)

MACo Names New Sustainable Growth Commission Appointments

MACo has named Garrett County Planning and Land Management Director Deborah Carpenter and MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp to serve as the two MACo representatives on the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.  They will be formally introduced at the Commission’s January 26 meeting.

Carpenter and Knapp will replace the previous MACo representatives – former Harford County Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti and former Talbot County Planning Director Ernest “Sandy”  Coyman.  Coyman retired in 2014 and Lisanti was successful in her 2014 election bid to become a Maryland Delegate.  Prior to her delegate election, Lisanti served as the vice chair of the Commission.

Carpenter has worked in various land use roles within Garrett County since 1995 and is an active member of the Maryland Association of County Planning Officials (MACo’s county planners affiliate).  She will bring both a historical knowledge and technical perspective to county land use issues before the Commission.  Knapp represents MACo on land use and environmental issues.  He regularly attends Commission meetings and has participated on many of the Commission’s workgroups.

Agriculture Commission Releases Model Definition of “Agri-Tourism” For Local Governments

A January 13 press release by the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced that the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) has developed a model definition for “agri-tourism” that local governments and zoning and permitting agencies can use as a template.  GICA also developed six recommendations concerning agri-tourism as well as a checklist that farmers and local officials can use when considering agri-tourism activities. From the press release:

A GICA workgroup developed the definition after both farmers and local government officials expressed confusion over what type of farming activity and operation constitutes an agri-tourism business.

The definition is a suggestion only; however, the commission will be asking county officials to review the language and consider adopting it as part of their local ordinances or to incorporate it into a guidance document when dealings with farm operations in the zoning and permitting process.  A representative from the Maryland Association of Counties was a member of the workgroup developing the definition.  …

MODEL DEFINITION:  “Agricultural Enterprise” includes an accessory farm-based business which is secondary to the primary agricultural use of the properties where activities such as on-farm processing of agricultural products and agritourism occur.  Agritourism is a series of activities conducted on a farm and offered to the public or to invited groups for the purpose of education, recreation, or active involvement in the farm operation.  These activities may include, but are not limited to, farm tours, hayrides, corn mazes, seasonal petting farms, farm museums, guest farm, pumpkin patches, “pick your own” or “cut your own” produce, classes related to agricultural products or skills, and picnic and party facilities offered in conjunction with the above.

GICA also made the following recommendations:

  • Recommend to county officials that a county “ombudsman” be designated in each county where there is no Agricultural Marketing Professional (AMP).
  • Agritourism operators should create an industry association, comprised of agritourism operations as well as other niche-market groups.
  • At the county level, where there is a tourism board, appoint an agritourism operator as a board member.
  • Encourage linkages between the AMP and county tourism person.
  • Leave the existing contributory negligence statute alone but consider recommending that operations put signage at the front of their properties and/or have guests sign waiver forms.
  • Provide a model “checklist” for people who want to go into agritourism, as well as for county planning and health officials. See a recommended checklist.

Report on Maryland’s Agriculture Available

The Maryland Department of Agriculture released the 2013 Summary of Maryland’s Agriculture Statistics. The report includes a comprehensive breakdown of state and county agriculture data including: number of farms, amount of farm land, market value of products sold, government payments, live stock information, and even operator characteristics.

Earl Hence, Maryland’s Secretary of Agriculture explains the report should

…help agricultural leaders on the local, state and national levels to make decisions that impact local economies, farm and farm-based businesses, and all aspects of the agricultural industry.

Maryland showed a 1% decrease in the amount of land used for farming between 2007 and 2012; however, there was a 24% increase in the amount of market value for the goods sold (p. 20). The report also explained that Frederick County has the most amount of acreage of farm land, with 181,512 acres (p. 40), and Caroline County has the most market value for goods sold with $257,915,000 (p. 30).

Visit the National Agricultural Statistics Service website for the full report.

David Craig To Bring Vast Local Experience As State Planning Head

With Governor-elect Larry Hogan’s announcement that former Harford County Executive David Craig will be the new Secretary for the Maryland Department of Planning, a remarkable depth of local government experience and leadership will arise in that important state agency. Mr. Craig is the only individual to have served as President of both the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League, and boasts a lengthy background of work at the state and local government level.

David Craig, courtesy of the Aegis
David Craig, courtesy of the Aegis

According to Aegis coverage via the Baltimore Sun,

Craig, 65, said Hogan had asked him about joining the new administration several weeks ago and eventually said he wanted him to take a cabinet level position.

Craig said he had told Hogan he was interested in doing something “to help the municipalities and counties bounce back” from the rough treatment he believes they received during the eight-year administration of outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Planning [secretary] looked very good to me,” he said, noting he would be working closely with the Maryland Municipal League and Maryland Association of Counties, two organizations which he has led in the past.

During the MACo Winter Conference, Mr. Craig interacted with countless county officials, including serving as a “mentor” for newly elected officials, and indicated his enthusiasm to work with county and municipal governments in the upcoming Administration. His appointment, made official during the conference, was met with great support from county attendees.

MEMA Awards $5M in Federal Mitigation Grants

As reported in HS, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) awarded more than $5 million in federal grants to local jurisdictions and qualified organizations.  According to the article, the jurisdictions receiving the mitigation grants are those that have been adversely affected by natural disasters recently, or are at risk to being impacted by natural disasters in the future.

“Through this mitigation grant program, MEMA is working with local jurisdictions to acquire and demolish structures that are not safe from natural hazards, turning the land into protected open space,” MEMA said in its announcement, noting that, “Maryland and Prince George’s County will be acquiring and demolishing seven properties in Fort Washington that experienced slope failure in March 2014. MEMA will also be working with Allegany County to acquire a six-property mobile home camp in Frostburg and with Calvert County on a single structure in Broomes Island. Property owners who experienced a loss will be reimbursed using these funds.”

For more information, see the full story from HS Today.