Charles County Commissioners Approve Purchase of Development Rights Program

November 25, 2014

A November 21 article reported that the Charles County commissioners unanimously approved the creation of a local purchase of development rights (PDR) program.  Under the program, the county will buy and retire development rights from selected rural properties.  The properties must be at least 50 acres in size or contiguous to already preserved land.  From the article:

Local officials, farmers and environmentalists have pushed for years for the county to establish a PDR program, and it has been a long-standing recommendation in several county planning documents. It was also among the recommendations made by a working group tasked earlier this year with drawing the county’s septic tier maps.

The program has been largely modeled after Calvert County’s PDR program, “which is long-standing and noted as very successful,” environmental Program Manager Charles Rice said Tuesday evening prior to a public hearing on the PDR legislation.

Young To Take Seat on Frederick Planning Commission

November 24, 2014

The Frederick News Post reports that during today’s terminal meeting of the Frederick County Commissioners (the County moves to Charter government following its upcoming transition), a procedural move was approved to appoint sitting County Commission President Blaine Young to a citizen seat on the County’s Planning Commission.

From coverage in the Frederick News-Post (limited free views available):

Young has acted as a commissioners liaison to the planning commission, with his service expected to end when he leaves office Dec. 1. However, during his final meeting as commissioners president, Young suddenly resigned his post on the planning commission. Seconds later, Commissioner Paul Smith moved to reappoint Young to the commission seat he had just vacated. For his new five-year term as a planning official, Young would be serving as a citizen rather than as a county commissioner, Smith said.

Three commissioners approved the decision, with Young stepping down from the board during the vote.

Read the full News-Post article online.

McIntosh, Barve Gain New Committee Chairs In House

November 20, 2014

Delegate Kumar Barve, courtesy of Maryland State Archives

Following shifts in the recent election, the House of Delegates leadership will undergo substantial changes — with Delegate Maggie McIntosh moving to serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee, and current Majority Leader Kumar Barve assuming the seat as chair of the newly-renamed Environment and Transportation Committee.

From coverage in the Washington Post:

Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore) was tapped to become chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, succeeding Del. Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico), who was defeated for reelection in his district this month.

McIntosh had served as chairwoman of the Environmental Matters Committee for the past 12 years. She will be replaced in that role when the House convenes in January by Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery), currently the House majority leader and a 24-year veteran of the chamber.

When Barve takes over McIntosh’s committee, its jurisdiction will be expanded to include both environmental and transportation issues, Busch said.

Read the Post article online.

The Speaker also made several additional leadership announcements, as part of preparations for the 2015 legislative session. The full text of Speaker Michael Busch’s November 19 press release on new leadership positions follows:

Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Economies Workgroup Holds First Meeting, Discusses Goal and Objectives

November 19, 2014

The Rural Economies Workgroup of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission held it first meeting on November 18.  Greg Bowen, a Commission member representing Southern Maryland and former Calvert County Planning Director, is the chair of the Workgroup.  State representatives participating in the meeting included the Maryland Departments of Planning (MDP), Agriculture, Natural Resources, Business and Economic Development, and Health and Mental Hygiene.  Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp represented MACo.  Other represented stakeholder groups included the Maryland Rural Council, 1000 Friends of Maryland, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and Western Maryland.  MDP will be staffing the Workgroup.

The Workgroup discussed a draft goal, set of objectives, and possible strategies for achieving those objectives.  An initial set of four objectives included: (1) land preservation; (2) sustainable food supply system; (3) sustainable forestry; and (4) sustainable rural recreation.  However, it is likely that these objectives and related strategies will be modified and several additional objectives added as the Workgroup finalizes its work plan.  Knapp suggested that the Workgroup consider examining areas where Maryland’s current Smart Growth policy does not mesh well with rural development issues and consider potential “tweaks” to policy that better address rural needs.  Other potential objectives included preservation of natural open spaces and public education.

The Workgroup hopes to finalize its work plan by December. Recommendations from the Workgroup will be targeted at both the State and local governments and will likely include proposed regulatory and statutory changes.  For further information please contact Les Knapp at or 410.269.0043.


AG Opinion Concludes Local Legislative Bodies Cannot Substantively Amend Draft Comp Plans

November 19, 2014

A November 18 Maryland Attorney General Opinion concluded that the local legislative bodies of non-charter counties and municipalities may not make even minor substantive amendments to a draft comprehensive plan submitted by the jurisdiction’s planning commission without first sending the proposed amendments back to the planning commission for its recommendation.  The opinion does not affect charter counties or Baltimore City.

The request for the opinion was made by the Town of Mount Airy in 2011 after a dispute between the town council and its planning commission.  Mount Airy’s counsel submitted an analysis along with the town’s request that concluded the town council had the ability to make material amendments to the submitted draft comprehensive plan without a recommendation from the town’s planning commission.

The Attorney General (AG) Opinion reviewed: (1) the plain language of the relevant statutes (Sections 3-202 and 3-205) of the Maryland Code’s Land Use Article; (2) 2012 Code Revision notes; and (3) the legislative history, before concluding:

Accordingly, we conclude that § 3-205(d)(1) currently does not authorize a legislative body to adopt substantive alterations or amendments to a comprehensive plan as prepared and approved by a planning commission. This does not mean that a local legislative body must adopt the proposed plan “word for word and comma for comma,” Opinion No. 92-010 (April 16, 1992), 1992 WL 674718 at *3 (unpublished); it may correct any clerical errors and other non-substantive mistakes. But a legislative body may not make even minor substantive changes without returning the plan to the commission for its recommendation. See § 3-205, Revisor’s Note (indicating that, under current law, even “minor changes” must be sent back to the commission). Although that may prolong the process of adopting a comprehensive plan, it best reflects the language and legislative history of the operable provisions and ensures that the important decisions embodied within the plan are agreed to by both the technical body and the body that is accountable to the electorate.

In recognition of the ambiguity in the current law and the then pending AG Opinion, MML has adopted the issue as one of its 2015 Legislative Priorities.  MML plans on introducing legislation that will “seek to clarify the existing local process with regard to the adoption of a comprehensive master plan and to establish conditions under which the current 60-day master plan adoption time requirement may be extended.”

Mount Airy Opinion Request

Mount Airy Attorney Analysis

2015 MML Legislative Priorities

Frederick Approves Transferable Development Rights Program

November 19, 2014

The Frederick County Commissioners, at their November 18 meeting, approved one of two competing versions of “transferable development rights” for farm property owners, allowing them to move development rights from one property to another. The decision raised some local controversy, hailed by farm advocates but derided by environmental groups.

From coverage in the Frederick News-Post:

Officials reviewed two potential versions of a program that would allow farmers to sell their subdivision rights to other agricultural property owners. One option was designed by attorney Rand Weinberg on behalf of the Frederick County Farm Bureau. The other was crafted by a work group of county staff and stakeholders representing development, real estate, agricultural preservation and farming.

In both versions, the county would place an easement on the selling property to make sure it stays in agriculture.

The Farm Bureau proposal would create a broader program that would permit more trading. In addition, it does not include a requirement to cluster lots.

The second proposal would place more limits on which properties are eligible to send growth rights and on the parcels that could receive them. A clustering requirement is part of the second option.

Commissioners ended up choosing the Farm Bureau plan. Commissioner David Gray cast the single vote in opposition.

The proposal moved forward even though the Frederick County Planning Commission had recommended denial of the program. County staff also advised against the program after concluding that it would not preserve land overall, since growth rights would not disappear but simply relocate. The lack of a consensus around the program and risk of jeopardizing a state exemption also weighed against moving forward, staff said.

Read the full News-Post coverage online.

Talbot County Names Verdery New Planning Officer

November 17, 2014

Mary Kay Verdery has recently been named Talbot County’s new planning officer. Verdery, who was serving as the interim since Sandy Coyman retired on September 30, has been appointed by the Talbot County Council.

The Star Democrat noted that Council President Corey Pack

said the council received many applications for the position, but Verdery’s appointment reflects a seamless transition in leadership.

“They worked together very well,” Pack said of Coyman and Verdery. “Sandy allowed Mary Kay to really use her talents and he put a lot of trust and responsibility on her.”

Pack said Verdery has the full support of the Talbot County Council.

In a prepared statement, Verdery said, “Accepting this position is an honor and privilege that will offer both opportunities and challenges. I am thankful to the Council for their confidence and look forward to working with the returning and new members of the Council on many important community issues. I am committed to working effectively and efficiently to accommodate the County’s growth while preserving the County’s resources and character. Our primary obligation is to serve the public interest.”

To read the full story about Talbot County’s new planning officer, visit The Star Democrat online.


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