2015 Summer Conference Session: Today and Tomorrow – An Update From the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

Hear an update on the work of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference, including its past work on Reinvest Maryland, its current work on Smart Growth indicators, and its pending work on the nature of priority funding areas and rural growth issues.


The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission continues to study and make recommendations regarding Smart Growth policy for the State and local governments. Last year the Commission unveiled its Reinvest Maryland policy recommendations for Infill, Revitalization, and Redevelopment. This year the Commission is working on Smart Growth indicators, rural growth issues, and other land use topics that directly affect county governments. Panelists will provide an update on the current activities of the Commission, highlight potential future areas of study, and solicit county feedback on the Commission’s goals and work.


  • Jon Laria, Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP and Chair, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • The Honorable Mary Ann Lisanti, Maryland Delegate and Vice Chair, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • Greg Bowen, Planner, Land Stewardship Solutions, LLC and Member, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission
  • Leslie Knapp, Jr., Legal and Policy Counsel, MACo and Member, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

Moderator: The Honorable Stephen Lafferty, Maryland Delegate (invited)

Date & Time: Friday, August 14, 2015; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

For a schedule of educational sessions at MACo’s Summer Conference, please view the Registration Brochure.

Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.

Climate Change Commission Hosting Series of Public Listening Sessions on Greenhouse Gas Plan

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change is hosting a series of public listening sessions throughout Maryland to seek feedback on how to proceed with Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan.  The Plan proposes a series of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 25% from their 2006 levels by 2020.

The Commission will host a five listening sessions throughout the state:

Public Comment Hearings on the MDE GGRA Plan Report

Meeting #1: Tuesday, July 14, 6pm – 8pm
Where: Patterson Park Branch Library, 158 N. Linwood Ave, Baltimore, MD (map)
Meeting #2: Thursday, July 16, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Where: The Eastern Shore Higher Education Center at Chesapeake Community College, 1000 College Cir, Wye Mills, MD 21679 (map)
Meeting #3: Tuesday, July 28, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: UMCES Appalachian Laboratory, 301 Midlothian Rd, Frostburg, MD 21532 – IVN room (map)
Meeting #4: Tuesday, August 4, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Where: All Saints Episcopal Parish Hall, Oakley Rd, Avenue, MD 20609 (map)
Meeting #5: Thursday, August 6, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: Prince George’s County Department of Environment Resources headquarters building, 1801 McCormick Drive, Largo, MD 20774 (map)

Howard County Names New Planning & Zoning Director

Valdis Lazdins has been named the new Director of Planning & Zoning for Howard County, taking over for Marsha McLaughlin who stepped down after being the head of the department for 13 years.

Lazdins photo
Valdis Lazdins, Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Sun article states that Lazdins

is taking on the role of planning director at a time of significant change for the county. Downtown Columbia is beginning to transform into the urban core envisioned in its master plan, while the focus along Route 1 and Route 40, which are, respectively, the industrial and strip shopping center corridors of the county, is on revitalization. Faced with increasing outside competition, Columbia’s village centers will also have to evolve.

Lazdins, who worked most recently for the Montgomery County Planning Department, brings a research-based perspective to the task of managing that change. As chief of research and special projects in Montgomery, he worked on a study of the office market in the Washington region, and was preparing to launch a study of national retail trends before accepting the job in Howard County.

“From a strategy standpoint, I think we need to look at where are there opportunities for change, and from the public sector standpoint, what kinds of carrots do we need to dangle in front of these property owners to facilitate change? … I think that facilitating change in the right locations is going to be key.”

For now, however, Lazdins says his “number one priority is to figure out how the county operates.”

In the short term, he’s also hoping to fill vacant staff positions and make improvements to the planning department’s website so that more information can be made available to the public.

And he’s taking on the role of planning director right as a task force appointed by County Executive Allan Kittleman starts to review the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which is intended to ensure that infrastructure in the county keeps pace with development.

To read the full article on Howard County’s new director of planning and zoning, Valdis Lazdins, visit The Baltimore Sun online.

Land Preservation Workgroup To Recommend Local Program Open Space Funding Levels

A Land Preservation Workgroup that was established to evaluate and make recommendations regarding land preservation and easement acquisition programs funded through the State transfer tax, including local side Program Open Space (POS),  held its first meeting on June 23, 2015.  The Workgroup was created through budget committee narrative in the Joint Chairmen’s Report for the FY 2016 operating and capital budgets (pages 221-22). From the committee narrative:

The workgroup should provide a report to the budget committees by December 1, 2015, on an evaluation of the full suite of land preservation and easement acquisition programs – Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Program Open Space – State and Local, Rural Legacy Program, and Maryland Environmental Trust – covering the roles the programs play relative to each other and current statute, and the funding each receives through the transfer tax formula. Topics of study should include the pros and cons of combining some or all of the land preservation and easement acquisition programs, and the possible expansion of State and local revenue generating opportunities from multi-use State working lands. In addition, specific programs should be evaluated as follows: …

Program Open Space – Local – the appropriate percentage of funding to be devoted to acquisition of land before development projects may be funded, the trade-offs associated with increasing/decreasing this percentage, the current status of county fulfillment of the land acquisition requirement, and the status of the requirement to evaluate the Program Open Space – Local allocation formula annually by a committee; …

Following the workgroup-led review, it is the intent of the budget committees that the land preservation and easement acquisition programs be fully funded with the transfer tax at the level recommended in the report.

Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) President and Howard County Parks and Recreation Director John Byrd and Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony are the two county representatives on the Workgroup.  Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton is the chair of the Workgroup.

The first meeting was largely organizational with Workgroup members introducing themselves and receiving overviews of the five programs that the Workgroup will review.  Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League and municipal parks and recreation departments proposed that municipalities should receive a designated share of local POS directly, rather than going through the counties.  MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp countered that unlike municipalities, counties face significant land acquisition and preservation goals and that municipalities already have a dedicated funding source through the Community Parks and Playgrounds program.

The next meeting of the is scheduled for July 21 at the Department of Natural Resources from 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM.  For further information, please contact Les Knapp (lknapp@mdcounties.org) or Andrea Mansfield (amansfield@mdcounties.org).

High School Capacity Issues Could Halt White Flint Redevelopment Projects

A June 19, 2015, Bethesda Magazine article reported that enrollment capacity projections for Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda may trigger a development moratorium and jeopardize two projects in the White Flint area. According to the article, the school is projected to reach 119.8 percent of its capacity within 5 years.  If capacity exceeds 120 percent, an adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO) requires all new residential development in the school’s cluster area to stop.

Properly implemented, APFOs serve as an important warning mechanism when growth in a particular area exceeds the capacity of local infrastructure (schools, public safety, water and sewer, roads, etc.) to handle incoming population.  MACo has supported the ability of a county to enact APFOs that serve to slow or halt growth until the infrastructure needs have been addressed.  Critics of APFOs argue that they sometimes end up serving as a permanent ban on development in a region. MACo does not support APFOs acting as a permanent ban but there is currently no funding mechanism at the State or federal level to address expensive infrastructure upgrades that exceed the ability of a county or municipality to budget for.

From the article:

While no school clusters in this year’s schools test are projected to surpass the moratorium mark in the next five years, county Planning Department staff cautioned that Walter Johnson— located at 6400 Rock Spring Drive—is projected to get close.

Developer Saul Centers’ plan for high-rise apartments along Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station could be affected. …

East Village at North Bethesda, a joint development project between Promark and Foulger-Pratt just north of White Flint Mall, could also be impacted.

Planning staff warned that the 614-unit, multi-family development might have to go forward in pieces.

“The Planning Board could approve only that part of East Village for which there is sufficient capacity [in the schools], leaving the remainder of the project in the queue until additional capacity becomes available, but this is not desirable,” Planning Department staff wrote.

The article noted that Montgomery County planning staff are set to review the capacity standards later this summer.

Allegany County CIP Includes Bridge Replacement, New Water Treatment Plant

A June 22, 2015, Cumberland Times-News article reported that the 2016-20 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) just passed by the Allegany County commissioners includes the necessary replacement of the Orleans Road Bridge, which is prone to flooding, and a new water treatment plant on the Potomac River.  According to the article, the CIP lists $16.4 million in projects, with the County likely have to fund $5.0 million of those costs.  Planned County expenditures for CIP projects includes $1.5 million in 2016 and $2.1 million in 2017. From the article:

The Little Orleans low-water bridge was built in 1938 by the New Deal Works Projects Administration, and floods regularly. The county has already spent $322,000 on the bridge replacement project, with no dirt being moved. County officials hope that after scaling back the project, that situation will change. The CIP budgets county funds of $50,000 for the bridge in 2016 and $525,000 in 2017, with the full cost of the project set as $3.7 million.

A feasibility study for the bridge replacement 10 years ago led to plans repeatedly derailed by environmental and archaeological concerns. …

A water treatment plant on the Potomac River has also been part of the county’s long-term plans for coping with the increased costs of water purchased from Cumberland and Keyser. A treatment plant on the river near the U.S. Route 220 corridor is technically feasible, county officials have said. A plant would allow at least some of the costs to be controlled by giving the county its own water supply. …

County officials have said the plant would allow the county to serve Bowling Green, Cresaptown and other areas. …

Building the plant is expected to cost $9.9 million, and while building the plant is included in the capital budget, the expectation is that the county will pay for the project with loan and grant money. No timeline has been projected for possible construction.

Independent Transit Authority Proposal Continues to Meet Opposition

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett recently testified before the county’s Transit Task Force to garner support for his proposal to create an Independent Transit Authority (ITA) in the county. County Executive Leggett had previously introduced state legislation (HB 104) during the 2015 Session that would have authorized the County to create the ITA, but had the bill withdrawn after the proposal received significant criticism from the County Council and civic leaders. The proposal continued to face opposition at the ITA meeting held last week.

As reported by the Bethesda Beat,

But Leggett hasn’t given up. At Wednesday night’s meeting, he said the county can’t improve its Ride On bus system, let alone construct a new bus rapid transit system, unless it finds an alternative to funding other than through the existing capital budget process.

Opponents, however, said they’re against the attempt to set up the agency because it would be funded by a transit tax imposed outside the county’s voter-approved charter cap limit.

The cap mandates that the county can’t collect more property tax revenue in a year than the rate of inflation plus the real estate value of new construction, unless all nine council members vote to exceed the limit. In effect, it forces the county to make incremental, if any, property tax increases.

However, Leggett explained that due to the significant upfront construction costs needed to build a bus rapid transit system, it would be more prudent to set up an independent entity focused solely on managing the transit system, which would have a consistent stream of revenue.

County Executive Leggett stated that the only way to fund the project through the county’s existing capital budget process would be to set aside other construction priorities such as school construction projects.

Maryland Law School Hosts Conference on Takings Challenges to Land Use & Environmental Regulations

Vermont Law School is holding a conference on litigation raising takings challenges based on land use and environmental regulations on September 25, 2015.  The one-day conference will be held at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore.  Overnight accommodations are available and CLE credits will be offered (accreditation currently pending).  From the Takings Conference 2015 webpage:

About the Conference

This conference explores the takings issue as it relates to land use, environmental rules and other forms of economic regulation. In addition to offering a basic education in modern takings law, the conference brings together a diverse group of leading scholars and experienced practitioners to discuss cutting-edge issues. Some of the topics to be discussed include the practical implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent takings decisions and pending takings issues before the Maryland Court of Appeals. The conference will also address the significance of the Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London on the 10th anniversary of that controversial case. Other issues to be discussed include potential takings issues arising from government efforts to deal with flooding and other disasters, local government access to insurance against takings claims, and novel takings claims based on the theory that property owners have an entitlement to regulatory protections. …

Key Questions to be Addressed

  • Where is the U.S. Supreme Court headed on takings?
  • How should we celebrate the tenth birthday of the Kelo decision?
  • Can government failure to regulate give rise to takings claims?
  • Do personal and real property have the same level of protection under the Takings Clause?
  • Can local governments obtain insurance against takings claims?
  • How will the courts resolve the AIG and Fannie Mae bailout takings cases?
  • Can the bankruptcy process be redesigned to better protect homeowners?

The conference formally begins at 9:00 AM, although registration opens at 7:30 AM and there is an optional introductions to takings session at 8:00 AM.  The conference concludes at 5:15 PM, with an optional reception running until 6:30 PM.  A continental breakfast and lunch are provided.  Cost is $250 for a government/nonprofit attendees, $500 for regular attendees.  Options are also available to just purchase the audio and course materials from the conference.

A partial list of conference co-sponsors includes MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division, the National Association of Counties, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and the Georgetown Law.

Conference Brochure (includes registration form)

Online Registration

For questions or registration help, please contact Rebecca Milaschewski at Vermont Law School:

Call: 802-831-1287
Fax: 802-831-1140
Email: rmilaschewski@vermontlaw.edu


Poolesville Richest Maryland City, Cumberland Poorest According to 24/7 Wall Street Report

In June of 2015 24/7 Wall Street released a series of special reports highlighting the richest and poorest cities in each state, based on each city’s median household income.  For reference, Maryland’s statewide median household income of $73,538 is the best in the nation. The national median income for 2014 was $51,900 according to the United States Census Bureau. The 24/7 reports found that Poolesville (Montgomery County) was the richest city in Maryland while Cumberland (Allegany County) was the poorest.

24/7 Wall Street Special Report – Richest City in Each State

24/7 Wall Street Special Report – Poorest City In Each State

From 24/7’s report on the richest city in each state:

Poolesville, Maryland
Town median household income:
State median household income: $73,538
Town population: 4,977

With Maryland households the wealthiest in the nation, Poolesville was not just the richest in the state but also among the richest nationwide. A typical household in the town earned $135,430 annually. Maryland was also one of just 10 states where the difference between the poorest and richest towns’ household median income exceeded $100,000.

From 24/7’s report on the poorest city in each state:

Cumberland, Maryland
Town median household income:
State median household income: $73,538 (the highest)
Town poverty rate: 15.9%
Town population: 20,711

Maryland residents are some of the wealthiest in the country, with a median household income of $73,538. Not every town in the state shares that good fortune. Cumberland, the state’s poorest town, had a median household income of just $30,962, $105,000 less than the income of a typical household in Poolesville, the highest-earning Maryland town. Maryland was one of only 10 states where the gap between incomes in the poorest and richest towns exceeded $100,000.

A June 16 Cumberland Times-News article reported on the finding that Cumberland is the poorest city in Maryland:

With a population of 20,711, Cumberland has a poverty rate of 15.9 percent, which ranks higher than the state poverty rate of 10.1 percent and the national rate of 14.5 percent.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in those statistical studies. You have to look at what they are basing things on,” said Mayor Brian Grim.

Grim said some reports will include the prison population in the statistics.

“That will skew the numbers,” said Grim. …

“Cumberland has not recovered the manufacturing jobs that we lost years ago. We have more tourism but many of those jobs are minimum wage,” said Bill Chesno, an associate with real estate firm Carter and Roque and a member of Cumberland’s Economic Development Commission. …

The bright side, according to Chesno, is that Cumberland is “the poorest in the the richest state.” …

“I think there are other cities in other states that are doing worse than Cumberland. It’s not to say we don’t have poverty or homeless issues. But I don’t think a report like that is a reflection of our community,” said Grim.



Economists & Energy Experts Question Value of Growth In Light of Environmental Impacts

A May 24, 2015, Bay Journal article (published in the June 2015 edition of the Bay Journal) summarized a discussion on how growth affects a region’s economy when environmental impacts are considered.  The discussion was part of the Journal’s Growth and the Chesapeake conference held earlier this year.  In the article, ecological economists challenge the longstanding assertion that growth is always good and necessary:

The economic downturn since the crash of 2008 isn’t a blip that will soon turn up, said Richard Heinberg, energy expert and author of “The End of Growth: Why We Won’t Be Able to Resume Business as Usual.”

Two of the biggest reasons, he said: fossil fuels, principally oil — and consumer debt.

With oil, which has driven economic growth like nothing else, we’ve picked the low-hanging fruit, exploited the cheap and easy sources. With new technologies, we can squeeze plenty more out of shale, tar sands and ultradeep wells in remote oceans; but too expensively to fuel growth as usual. And alternatives like solar, wind, conservation and ethanol can’t repeat oil’s past energy and economic windfall.

The other fuel for economic expansion has been the radical increase of personal debt, to where consumer spending supports 70 percent of the U.S. economy. And that, too, appears to have reached its limits in 2008. Only government debt is still growing.

Panelists also posited that while growth does bring economic benefits, it generally benefits certain stakeholders and ends up being subsidized by taxpayers:

Growth does have economic benefits, but to the influential and politically connected few rather than the many, said planning expert Eben Fodor. He has studied the links between high population growth communities and the average citizen’s prosperity across the nation.

He has found population growth, per se, does little to reduce poverty and unemployment, and that its costs — up to $95,000 borne by taxpayers for providing services to each new single-family home — contribute to reduced per capita income in high-growth regions. …

“Growth simply is not creating prosperity; it is heavily subsidized by taxpayers,” Fodor concluded.

Presenters argued that slowing growth does not have to come with negative economic consequences, such as when Calvert County downzoned its agricultural areas:

In the [Chesapeake] Bay watershed, there are beginnings of the shift already. Planner Greg Bowen showed how his county, Calvert, MD, dramatically reduced growth through two downzonings. “Economic disaster didn’t happen…land values and security from development for farmers are higher than surrounding counties that didn’t downzone,” he said.

Among the more radical proposals of the discussion was the creation of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for growth:

Maryland maintains an alternative to traditional measures of state economic progress. Unlike official measures, the Genuine Progress Index includes environmental and social costs of growth. It is just a start, but is beginning to show the flaws in “grow or die,” economist Elliott Campbell said.

Campbell suggested adding a “growth TMDL” to the Total Maximum Daily Loads that the EPA sets for conventional pollutants to the Bay. “It would measure the load of energy use, population growth…water use,” he said.