Carroll Commissioners Adopt Master Plan

Carroll County Commissioners have unanimously adopted a master plan that will “outline future economic, residential and agricultural development”. This plan has been in the works since 2009.

According to the Carroll County Times,

“This plan addresses the short-term needs of the county while looking to the future without jeopardizing either of those two,” said Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5. “It shows you can have a plan that recognizes the need for economic development and the financial base that’s needed without jeopardizing the rural nature of the community, and I truly believe you can have a document that allows for good, solid long-term planning without jeopardizing the core values of our county and our nation.”

Analysts Target Ag Preservation, Rural Legacy For $18m Cuts

The Department of Legislative Services, the legislative staff agency, has offered a recommendation that the capital budget funding for two programs – Agrcultural Land Preservation and Rural Legacy – be reduced by roughly half for the coming year. The two cuts would total nearly $18 million.

The recommendation is included as part of the DLS analysis of the capital budget for the Department of Agriculture, and also references the Department of Natural Resources (DLS capital analysis not yet available). The funds at hand are from state general obligation (GO) bonds.

The explanation for the proposed cut is to create “parity” with funds being used to replace Program Open Space – a target for funding reductions in the current year’s budget. From the DLS report, referencing the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation:

As noted above, the fiscal 2016 funding for MALPF includes $22.7 million in GO bond funding that essentially replaces prior year funding redirected to the general fund. However, there appears to be an inequitable distribution of this replacement funding for land preservation programs in the fiscal 2016 capital budget. As shown in Exhibit 7, both MALPF and the Rural Legacy Program – budgeted with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – receive full replacement funding for prior funds, while Program Open Space – also budgeted with DNR – receives only 49.8% of the programmed replacement funding.

DLS recommends that the MALPF GO bond authorization be reduced by $11.4 million to reflect the same replacement funding percentage received by Program Open Space.

DLS also appears set to recommend that Rural Legacy funds be reduced by $6.3 million, in a forthcoming analysis of the Department of Natural Resources.

MACo Resists Mandated New “Vision” In Local Comp Plans

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs on February 17, MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp suggested that a proposed new element in county comprehensive plans be withdrawn from a comprehensive piece of legislation regarding climate change and preparedness.

During the hearing, Mr. Knapp indicated “[the bill] would force us to incorporate yet another element into our comprehensive plans that are… already strained.” He referenced many new laws and requirements established since 2006.

From MACo’s written testimony, citing these many recent enactments governing local planning duties:

With the addition of these new requirements, comprehensive plans have grown increasingly complex and costly to prepare. They are no longer the simple visionary documents that could easily be understood by citizens and have begun to take on the detail and specificity traditionally reserved for zoning.

In acknowledgement of this complexity, the General Assembly recently increased the comprehensive plan update cycle from 6 years to 10 years (HB 409/SB 671 of 2013). MACo has also requested that both the General Assembly and the Executive Branch refrain from requiring additional plan changes so that existing requirements can be properly incorporated into the plans and the effectiveness of those requirements can be evaluated.

Search and review all MACo testimony and positions on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.

MACo Defends Reasonable Charges for Complex GIS Data

MACo Legal & Policy Counsel Les Knapp presented testimony to the Environmental, Health and Education Committee this Wednesday, February 11 opposing SB94, State Government – Automated Mapping-Geographic Information Systems – System Services Costs. This bill would remove the ability for county governments to include a reasonable share of “overhead costs” when charging for certain geographic information systems (GIS) products, potentially rendering valuable systems unaffordable.

From the written testimony:

MACo has no issue with most of the bill’s proposed changes, which are based on the work of the Council for Open Data and remove restrictive or outmoded laws related to the provision of GIS information to the public. However, MACo is opposed to the removal of the ability to charge for the reasonable share of overhead costs. As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the costs to counties that are able to currently budget and provide GIS services per the bill’s provisions would be minimal. Conversely, though, there could be a fiscal effect on counties that rely on the existing law to collect overhead costs.

For more on MACo’s 2015 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

Environment, Planning, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Departments Brief Senate Committee

On January 27 the acting secretaries for the Maryland Departments of Agriculture (MDA), Environment (MDE), Natural Resources (DNR), and Planning (MDP)briefed the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHE) Committee on the structure and duties of their respective departments.

In addition to their basic functions, EHE members also asked the departments about pending issues, such as the phosphorus management tool (or PMT) and the preservation of open space.

Watch EHE Briefing

(MDA Section starts at 6:50, MDE Section starts at 1:00:20, DNR Section starts at 1:24:10, MDP Section starts at 1:59:55)


Ag Preservation Foundation Highlights Successes

The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation released its FY 2014 Annual Report recently. The report reviews the many accomplishments the Foundation had in 2014, including:

At the end of FY 2014, we had purchased easements on a cumulative total of 2,154 properties, permanently preserving about 292,357 acres, at a total state investment of just over $645 million.

As a result the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation

is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the country

The Annual Report also had a break down of all the county land Easement Settlements in FY 2014. Last year, Baltimore and Frederick counties had the most number of easements, Queen Anne’s County had the most number of acres preserved, and Anne Arundel County had the highest aquistion cost per acre.

For the full article and more county information visit the MALPF website online.

Marc Steiner’s “Soundbites” Series Explores Maryland’s Agriculture Policies

The Marc Steiner Show


The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM radio is running on ongoing series called Soundbites that examines Maryland’s agricultural and food policies.  Previous January segments have discussed the potential ramifications of the Hudson v. Waterkeeper case on future State environmental policies, how the proposed phosphorus management tool (PMT) regulations and legislation will fare during the 2015 Session, and global food trends.  The audio of each segment is available through the link provided above.

A January 27 segment (online audio still pending) discussed changes in the State’s agricultural and environmental policies by Governor Larry Hogan.


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.