Sustainable Growth Commission Ponders Key IRR Recommendations

July 31, 2014

Infill, Redevelopment & Revistalization

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission considered a list of key or “headline” recommendations for its Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy at its July 28th meeting.  While the Commission is still considering all 85 recommendations from the current draft, the members agreed that a smaller subset should receive special focus.  The headline list focuses on 27 recommendations, often combining language from several recommendations in the full draft.  The recommendations cover focusing the State’s resources (water/sewer, roadways, schools/libraries, and economic development) in targeted redevelopment and revitalization areas, promoting equitable development, and furthering transit-oriented-development goals.

The Commission generally agreed that 27 was still too many to highlight and will likely narrow the list of headline recommendations further.  MACo’s representatives on the Commission and MACo staff continue to participate in the Commission’s deliberations.

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the IRR Policy


Sustainable Growth Commission Releases Revised IRR Draft

July 23, 2014

Infill, Redevelopment & Revistalization

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 21 the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission released a preliminary draft of its proposed Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy for public comment.  The preliminary draft is an updated version of an earlier draft circulated at various public forums and commented upon by MACo.

June 25 Draft IRR Recommendations

MACo’s Comments on June 25 Draft IRR Recommendations

July 22 Updated IRR Recommendations

Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown sent a letter to Commission on January 22, 2014, requesting that the Commission make recommendations ““to accelerate Maryland’s infill, redevelopment, and revitalization efforts.”  In response, the Commission has considered a wide range of statutory, regulatory, fiscal, and policy proposals to increase the use of IRR.  Some of these proposals would provide additional tools to local land use planners while others would impose land use and taxation mandates.

The Commission will meet on July 28 from 1:00 – 4:00 PM at the Talbot County Library (100 West Dover Street, Easton, MD 21601) to discuss the updated recommendations.  Public comments will be accepted through August 20.  The Commission expects to adopt a final version of the recommendations on August 27.  The Commission’s deadline for submitting its recommendations is August 31.

Sustainable Growth Commission July 22 Press Release

Conduit Street Coverage of the IRR Policy

Commission Chair Jon Laria will take part in an IRR Panel at the 2014 MACo Summer Conference.  Click here for further information on the panel, entitled “Is IRR Maryland’s Next Big Land Use Policy?”

Learn more about MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference:

Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White with questions about Summer Conference.


MDP Relases Transit-Oriented Development Planning Tools As Demand For TOD Increases

July 18, 2014

In a July 16 press release, the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) announced that it had developed a set of online Planning Tools for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that provides information to county elected officials and planners about furthering TOD projects in their communities.  From the press release:

An interactive map features a TOD profile tool that enables users to delve into demographics, employment data, transit use, land use and development projects around every Metro and MARC station in Maryland. For those researching potential TOD sites, the profile tool provides a detailed snapshot of conditions around each station.

The resource also details TOD policies, programs and implementation efforts around the state, describing each rail and subway line along with their progress and potential. Rounding out the resource are summaries of best practices to support creative development projects.

The press release also noted that the Maryland Department of Transportation assisted in the development of the planning tools.

The release of the MDP TOD planning tools coincides with a July 16 Sustainable Cities Network article reporting that demand for TOD has been increasing, driven by retiring baby-boomers and young millennials.

Baby boomers, the ones who originally settled in the suburbs with their families, are now empty nesters and have a desire to live in neighborhoods where they can go to work and out to dinner without using their car. These senior citizens live side-by-side with millennials — a generation born since 1982 — who have shunned cars and prefer to live in cities with available public transportation.

More than half of millennials surveyed said they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around. Another 66 percent said that access to high quality transportation is one of the top three criteria they would consider when deciding where to live, according to a survey released by The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America. This same survey, released in April, said almost all millennials (91 percent) believe that investing in quality public transportation systems creates more jobs and improves the economy.

The article also examined the benefits and challenges posed by TOD.


Carroll County Wrestles With Solar Farms on Ag Land

July 16, 2014

A July 15 Carroll County Times article reported that Carroll County is considering an ordinance that would allow solar farms on agricultural land.  However, the County is concerned about the solar facilities replacing traditional agricultural crop production.

But, the county’s agriculture community expressed concern about allowing large-scale [solar] facilities on farming land, so the county has taken agricultural zoning districts out of the ordinance. The fear is that farmers would stop planting crops and instead cover their land with solar panels, according to Phil Hager, director of the county’s Department of Land Use, Planning and Development.

“There were those that had concerns that they weren’t sure what the legislation would mean so they wanted more time to study it,” Hager said. “Another concern was that these types of uses would, conceivably, compete with traditional agricultural to such an extent that they actually threaten agriculture.”  …

Hager said the county is forming a committee to look into what effects, if any, allowing large-scale facilities in the agricultural zoning district would have on local farming and the county’s rural nature.

The article also noted that the Maryland Farm Bureau will be discussing “solar farming” at its December convention.


MACo Submits IRR Comments to Sustainable Growth Commission

July 15, 2014

MACo has submitted its comments on the Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy currently under consideration by the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.  The comments were developed jointly by group of urban and rural county planners and MACo staff.    For an explanation of and further background on the IRR Policy, see the Conduit Street article “The ABC’s of IRR: Infill, Redevelopment, Revitalization.”

The MACo comments are based on the June 25th  version of the Commission’s Working Draft of Potential Recommendations, which contains 114 recommendations broken down into eight broad subject areas:  (1) General Issues; (2) Economic Issues; (3) Community Design; (4) Market Dynamics; (5) Equitable Development; (6) Programs and Policies, (7) Education; and (8) Transit-Oriented Development.

MACo’s primary concerns with and hopes for IRR Policy are summarized in the following paragraph from the comments:

There is no question that infill, redevelopment, and revitalization are key components in a land use plan that furthers sound Smart Growth principles.  A properly developed IRR Policy will further Smart Growth goals by focusing growth and assisting in the creation of needed infrastructure in locally designated growth areas.  However, a poorly developed IRR Policy could undermine local land use decision-making, create inequities amongst different regions of the state, and fail to acknowledge important local needs and issues.

MACo laid out four “core positions” in the comments regarding:

  1. Preserving local land use decision making;
  2. Ensuring the IRR Policy treats all jurisdictions – urban and rural, county and municipality – fairly;
  3. Providing that the IRR Policy is flexible to acknowledge local differences and does not take a “one size fits all” approach; and
  4. Stressing that MACo and both urban and rural counties be consulted throughout the IRR development process.

MACo also provided specific comments on a number of the 114 recommendations.  Several broad themes were highlighted including:

  1. Focusing the IRR Policy on “locally designated growth areas” where counties commit to long term growth, including IRR.  These jurisdictions could include designated Sustainable Communities and PlanMaryland growth and revitalization areas but not exclusively limited to them.
  2. Avoiding de facto land use decision making vesting with the Smart Growth Subcabinet and providing incentives and options to counties rather than mandates.
  3. Educating the general public and the media about the benefits of well-planned IRR growth.
  4. Creating better “horizontal integration” at the State level to reduce conflicting policies and permitting issues among the various departments
  5. The creation of a dedicated infrastructure funding mechanism.

Regarding the infrastructure funding mechanism, MACo commented:

MACo believes the top issue that the State must address is the creation of a dedicated infrastructure funding mechanism that will provide for the creation of necessary infrastructure in locally designated growth areas AND for the maintenance, replacement and, where necessary, upgrades to infrastructure outside of the locally designated growth areas.  This infrastructure funding source should include funding for roads, schools, water and sewer, and stormwater.

MACo concluded its comments by noting:

If the IRR Policy respects local autonomy, includes flexibility, and addresses the State’s longstanding deficit regarding infrastructure funding, then MACo believes the Policy will be successful in furthering Smart Growth goals and will naturally inspire more planning coordination between municipalities, counties, and the State.  MACo urges the Commission to make recommendations that move the Policy in this beneficial direction.

The Commission’s deadline for submitting its recommendations is August 31.  Over the next several weeks the Commission will be paring down its set of recommendations.

MACo’s Comments on Draft IRR Policy (2014-07-14)

Conduit Street Coverage of the IRR Policy

Commission Chair Jon Laria will take part in an IRR Panel at the 2014 MACo Summer Conference.  Click here for further information on the panel, entitled “Is IRR Maryland’s Next Big Land Use Policy?”

Learn more about MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference:

Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White with questions about Summer Conference.


Experimental Agricultural Stormwater Management System Yields Promising Results

July 10, 2014

While stormwater runoff management is primarily perceived as an urban issue, Maryland’s agricultural community also faces stormwater management requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.  A July 2 Star Democrat article reported on the recent and favorable findings regarding an experimental agricultural stormwater management system.

After implementing an agricultural stormwater cascading system on his farm near Chestertown in 2011, new data shows that Samuel Owings’s self-constructed system is fulfilling its purpose to reduce agricultural runoff from flowing into the Hambleton Creek, Chester River and Chesapeake Bay.  …

The cascading system is a series of four basins that are between 35 to 45 feet wide and 120 to 170 feet long. Using grass seed, starter fertilizer, curlex and natural vegetation, the system is placed in a grass waterway and drainage ditch and begins at higher elevations and moves toward lower elevations with the last basin placed at the edge of an existing wetland and pond.

With the assistance of grant funding, University of Maryland graduate student and research assistant Rosie Myers completed half of a two-year analysis of the effectiveness of Owings cascading system.  Myers derived her conclusions based on collected data from nine storm events (about 1/3 of last year’s storm events for the Queen Anne’s County region where Owings’ farm is located).

Looking at all nine storm events, Myers said 64 percent of the water that entered the system did not leave, and cited an 11 percent reduction in nitrogen and a 5 percent reduction in phosphorus. She then excluded the two largest storm events from her data, and the system showed over a 95 percent efficiency rate, which she attributed to the large washouts re-suspending and discharging sediment and nutrients captured from earlier storms.

“If it can reduce the washouts from the basins, this can be a very efficient system,” Myers said.  …

The cascading system brings many benefits to agricultural environments, Owings said, as it uses little or no tillable land; traps and filters sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus; provides instant gratification; uses simplistic materials such as grass seed and starter fertilizer; replenishes groundwater; is easily replicated by other farmers; creates wildlife habitation; creates top soil as a byproduct; and recycles phosphorus by spreading it back on farm fields.

MDP Secretary Argues for Redevelopment, IRR Policy in Sun Op-Ed

June 26, 2014

In a June 25 Baltimore Sun op-ed, Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall argued the benefits of redevelopment and discussed the State’s proposed Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy.  Hall presented his case for redevelopment:

As we’ve learned over and over again, older, organic development patterns are often preferable to those driven by auto-dependent design.  …

While not a new issue, the need to emphasize infill and redevelopment continues to increase as Maryland grows. Focusing on redevelopment improves quality of life by increasing access to jobs, shopping and services, and it boosts local economies. Contrast that to development in faraway, undeveloped areas, where we see the high cost of new infrastructure and other public services and the loss of farm and forest land, which help protect the Chesapeake Bay.

We are projected to add 1 million new Marylanders and 500,000 homes in the next 25 years. To accommodate that growth, it’s imperative that we make infill and redevelopment the norm.

In the op-ed, Hall also highlighted the ongoing work of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission to develop the IRR Policy:

The commission, aided by [the Maryland Department of Planning], staff from other state smart growth agencies, developers and other stakeholders, is reviewing federal, state and local programs and analyzing the practices of many Maryland communities to gain insight into the best ways to create vibrant places with a range of housing, employment and transportation options.

Redevelopment provides environmental benefits by reinvesting in buildings and infrastructure, focusing growth where services exist rather than creating new development on tracts far from population centers.  …

Smart growth is about protecting our forest and farm land and well-planned development. It is the yin and yang — you must have them together. Many of the smart growth debates of late have been about development we don’t want, we now need to focus more on the kind of development we do want.

Hall also discussed the State’s recent expansion of the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit to include certain small commercial businesses and the Maryland Department of Planning’s efforts to increase the reuse of older buildings.

Conduit Street Coverage of the IRR Policy


The A-B-Cs of I-R-R: Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization

June 26, 2014

Infill, Redevelopment & Revistalization

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article is the first in a periodic series that will discuss the Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy that is being studied and developed by the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.  This part will provide an overview of the IRR Policy, discuss the Commission’s timetable and workplan, and summarize MACo’s initial comments and position.

On this important emerging issue, MACo and member counties are engaging directly – participating as members of the Commission’s efforts, opening dialog with policy leaders and MACo leaderhip, and featuring the topic during the upcoming summer conference for the wider county and stakeholder audience.

What is IRR?

There are many definitional variations of infill, redevelopment, and revitalization and they can overlap functionally.  For the purpose of understanding the IRR Policy, the following basic definitions should serve:

“Infill” typically refers to development on open land that is part of an urbanized land area.  The development usually occurs on land that has been zoned for development but was left vacant as the area around it was built out.

“Redevelopment” typically means converting an existing built property into another use.  For instance, a large vacant commercial or industrial site could be converted into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex.

“Revitalization” typically means the application of infill or redevelopment to communities to combat urban blight or depressed economic conditions.  It can be used to rejuvenate failing communities or strengthen stable but at-risk communities.

 Why is the Commission working on an IRR Policy?

Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown sent a letter to Commission on January 22, 2014, requesting that the Commission make recommendations ““to accelerate Maryland’s infill, redevelopment, and revitalization efforts.”  The letter specifically asked the Commission to review and address the following in its recommendations:

  • Making the best use of existing redevelopment and revitalization programs;
  • Implementing Transit Oriented Development in ways that maximize community and economic development benefits;
  • Funding and financing recommendations, making use of the recent Smart Growth Investment Task Force recommendations;
  • Streamlining and other regulatory relief;
  • Adequacy of existing plans such as PlanMaryland to address these issues;
  • Educational and training tools;
  • Tools for quality community design elements in redevelopment and infill projects; and
  • The role of the Smart Growth Subcabinet and its member agencies in implementing these recommendations.

Why should counties care about the IRR Policy? 

A properly developed IRR Policy will further Smart Growth goals by focusing growth and assisting in the creation of needed infrastructure in locally designated growth areas.  However, a poorly developed IRR Policy could undermine local land use decision-making, create inequities amongst different regions of the state, and fail to acknowledge unique local needs and issues.

What are the key components of the IRR Policy?

The interim/working draft of the potential recommendations is continuing to change and evolve.  As the Commission continues its deliberations, it is possible for recommendations to be added, deleted or modified.  The information provided here is derived from the Commission’s June 25, 2014  Working Draft of Potential Recommendations.

The 114 recommendations are broken down into eight broad subject areas:

  1. General Issues: This section includes recommendations that do not fall into the remaining subject areas.  Examples of recommendations in this section include the targeting of State investments to areas that have worked with the State to develop coordinated economic development and community revitalization strategies, particularly those areas designated as Sustainable Communities.
  2. Economic Issues: This section focuses on infrastructure financing, project financing, and tax structures, such as establishing tax increment financing districts for state revenues which would then be used to fund IRR or reducing transportation projects that do not support Smart Growth and using the cost savings for IRR.
  3. Community Design: This section includes recommendations related to addressing physical and design challenges for IRR projects, including handling increased densities and walkability and access.
  4. Market Dynamics: This section covers recommendations designed to foster a positive market for IRR projects, such as aligning State growth-related resources (roads, water and sewer facilities, schools, business and economic development, etc.) to encourage IRR projects, particularly in designated Sustainable Communities.
  5. Equitable Development: This section contains recommendations focusing on addressing blight, spurring job creation, maintaining affordable housing, creating access to healthy food, and ensuring public safety and quality public education for IRR projects.
  6. Programs and Policies: This section covers recommendations on changing State and local programs and regulations to incentivize IRR projects, including a more consistent and expedited permitting process, reducing the effect of adequate public facilities ordinances within Priority Funding Areas, and the creation of a “mechanism to mediate [public input] disputes and evaluate the ‘greater good’ from the PlanMaryland perspective.”
  7. Education: This section looks at recommendations designed to educate elected officials and the public about the benefits of IRR projects and provide IRR technical assistance to both local governments and developers.
  8. Transit-Oriented Development: The final section focuses on recommendations related to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD), which is regarded as a specific type of IRR.  Recommendations in this section include the creation of a dedicated TOD funding source, implementation of a regional sales tax for transit projects, creation of mandatory TOD standards (differing by jurisdiction) that all parties must follow, and recognition that TOD needs a different model for more rural areas.

What is the timeline for the Commission’s work on the IRR Policy?

The Governor’s letter requested that the Commission submit its recommendations by August 31, 2014.  To date the Commission has instructed Maryland Department of Planning staff to interview selected stakeholders, look at several communities as “case studies,” and catalog best practices and prior recommendations related to IRR.  The Commission has also held several public forums or stakeholder meetings on the issue, with the latest being on June 25.  The draft recommendations will be considered by a coordinating committee, steering committee, and the Smart Growth Subcabinet between now and mid-July.

The Commission will review the revised draft recommendations at its July 28 meeting and sign off on the final report at a special meeting in mid-August.

Full IRR Workplan and Timeline (updated as of June 20)

How is MACo engaging on the issue?

MACo has formed a workgroup of interested county stakeholders that have reviewed the initial set of proposed recommendations and will be submitting formal written comments to the Commission shortly.  The comments will include four “core” positions that MACo believes should guide the overall approach and discussion related to IRR Policy and specific responses certain draft recommendations.  The four core positions include the following:

  1. Local Land Use Decision Making: MACo has long advocated that land use decisions should be primarily made at the local government level. Local governments are most aware of the needs and unique challenges faced by their constituents. As such, the IRR Policy should be designed to work collaboratively with local government land use plans and locally designated IRR areas rather than as a top-down State mandate.
  2. Fairness: It is critical that the IRR Policy treat all local jurisdictions fairly – including between counties and municipalities, urban and rural areas, and different geographic regions of the state (such as Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore). If the Policy appears to favor one set of participants at the expense of others, it will limit its acceptance and successful implementation.
  3. Flexibility: The IRR Policy must provide flexibility so that jurisdictions are able to address local needs and issues. Different areas of the state are faced with different land use and infrastructure challenges and the Policy will not be effective if it embodies a “one size fits all” approach.
  4. Consultation: As the Commission continues its deliberations, it is important that all local jurisdictions be afforded an opportunity to provide input. MACo and the county planners believe that a broad mix of urban and rural county planners should be interviewed and considered as panelists at the various public forums being held by the Commission. MACo is concerned that many of the public outreach events to date have featured very few rural county planners.

Additionally, Commission Chair Jon Laria and Harford County Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti, MACo’s elected official representative on the Commission, will be discussing the issue with MACo’s Board of Directors on July 10.  MACo will also be featuring an IRR Policy panel on August 15 (click here for further panel and registration information).

MACo will continue to remain engaged throughout the process, providing direct input at Commission meetings and the various public forums.

How can I get engaged?

If you wish to participate on the MACo IRR Workgroup or discuss how you can offer other contributions, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Register for MACo’s summer conference, where IRR policy will be a featured workshop among many other “Ideas and Innovations” for county leaders.

You may also submit comments to the Commission by completing this online survey.  The survey will remain live through June 30.

 


Ecodistricts Considered in Baltimore City

June 24, 2014

A June 21 Baltimore Sun article reported that several projects in Baltimore City, including State Center and Harbor Point, are considering creating the City’s first “ecodistrict.” From the article:

The [State Center] project could introduce Baltimore’s first “ecodistrict,” creating a zone with a set of common environmental goals and infrastructure systems to help meet the targets. …

The ecodistrict approach, pioneered in Portland, Ore., scales up the kind of environmental standards often applied to individual buildings, a move backers say allows property owners to have a greater impact, while preserving the flexibility of a small operation.

In the past five years, the idea has gained traction, with cities such as San Francisco and Washington proposing zones in which buildings share systems for energy or stormwater management. In Baltimore, the idea has been discussed in relation to Harbor Point, as well as the west side around Lexington Market, where the city is looking for developers for a number of major sites.

“The basic concept of an ecodistrict is this idea of getting greater efficiencies out of systems within a neighborhood or community than you could get doing it one building at a time,” said Peter Doo, a partner at Doo Consulting, a Baltimore sustainability consulting firm, who is a member of the city’s Sustainability Commission.

The article stated that heightened stormwater management requirements have led to the interest in ecodistricts but that no formal discussions  have occurred at the State or local level.  However, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability is examining the issue:

The Baltimore Office of Sustainability is researching the methodology championed by the Portland-based nonprofit EcoDistricts, as well as other neighborhood or district-based programs to tackle environmental sustainability, coordinator Alice Kennedy said. The hope is to find the most effective way to meet the goals outlined in the city’s sustainability and climate action plans.

“We’re still looking at what options exist, what benefits do they bring and what would it take,” she said. “There isn’t anything very specific in terms of projects or programs.”

EcoDistricts Website (Check here to find out about the nonprofit’s pilot program and methodology)


Sustainable Growth Commission To Hold June 25 Public Forum On IRR Policy

June 24, 2014

Infill, Redevelopment & Revistalization

 

 

 

 

 

 

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown have asked the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission to propose an Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy by August 31.  The Commission will be hosting a public forum on June 25 in Annapolis.  From a June 23 press release:

As leaders throughout Maryland work to improve quality of life and economic vitality from Cumberland to the Eastern Shore, they are turning to strategies that encourage redevelopment and infill as a means to revitalize their communities.

Recognizing the many benefits of community reinvestment, Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in January asked the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission to undertake an initiative to advance infill, redevelopment and revitalization statewide. Since then, the Commission has been reviewing federal, state and local programs and analyzing the practices of many Maryland communities to gain insight into the best ways to create vibrant places with a range of housing, employment and transportation options.

The Commission will deliver a set of recommendations to the governor’s office at the end of summer.

As part of the Infill, Redevelopment and Revitalization (I/R/R) initiative, the Commission is holding a public forum Wednesday to seek ideas from 12 Maryland planners, developers and local leaders. In a panel format, invited speakers will address issues like market dynamics and community design and generate discussion about where efforts to revitalize have worked – and where they haven’t.

A main strategy of smart growth, infill is the development of vacant parcels in built areas, while redevelopment focuses on rebuilding. Both are part of community revitalization, which instills new life and vitality into a place. People know it when they see it: downtowns bustling with activities and special events, a variety of housing types, wide sidewalks that beckon to pedestrians and well-tended storefronts.

“Redeveloping Maryland’s communities provides environmental benefits by reinvesting in buildings and infrastructure,” said Commission Chairman Jon Laria. “When we focus growth where services exist, we avoid building on tracts far from population centers, which is not a sustainable way to grow.”

The I/R/R recommendations will cover investment, policies and programs based on an analysis of existing reports and interviews with community leaders and representatives. The final report also will contain case studies identifying what works in a community’s efforts to revitalize, redevelop or attract infill development, and what impediments have slowed progress.

The forum, to be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 25 in the Miller State Building, President’s Conference Center West, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, is open to the public. Those who wish to have direct input on the I/R/R initiative should take the I/R/R online survey designed for anyone who lives or works in Maryland.

IRR Policy Work Plan

IRR Policy Online Survey


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