Proposed Calvert County Municipality Gains a Name and Boundaries

September 17, 2014

A September 12 SoMdNews article reported that a proposed municipality in Calvert County now has a name (Calvert Shores) and formal boundaries.  The proposed municipality would encompass Chesapeake Ranch Estates (CRE) and sections of Lusby.  If pursued, the incorporation issue could be on the 2016 election ballot.

The article discussed the desire of Ranch Estate residents to reduce their homeowner association costs.   The article also summarized recent advice offered by former La Plata Mayor Bill Eckman to Ranch Estates residents:

A good government is able to distinguish between needs and wants, Eckman said. Of the services government provides, two are crucial: fire protection and law enforcement.  …

The services government should provide include things such as central water and sewer, street and highway management, planning and zoning and trash collection. The desirable services that are wants rather than needs are things such as parks and recreation and airports.  …

Even though municipal incorporation unlocks opportunities for the Ranch Estates community through grant funds not currently available to CRE as a homeowners’ association, challenges come with incorporation as well.

“People demand more services and everyone wants something different,” Eckman said. This is the top challenge of a municipal government, he said, and closely following is how people are not willing to pay more for the services provided.

Getting people to vote for local offices in Calvert Shores will be an issue, too, Eckman said, as it has been in La Plata.


Traffic Roundabouts Can Lower Costs While Improving Traffic Flow & Reducing Serious Accidents

September 17, 2014

A September 10 Sustainable City Network article examined how traffic roundabouts can reduce serious traffic accidents, improve traffic flow,  lower gas and infrastructure maintenance costs, encourage business/economic development, and minimize environmental impacts. The article cites Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) findings that roundabouts reduce severe crashes with injuries or fatalities by 82 percent vs. intersections with stop signs and 78 percent vs. intersections with traffic signals.  The article also distinguished roundabouts from older traffic circles:

[FHWA Intersections Program Manager Jeff] Shaw explained that roundabouts differ from traffic circles and rotaries that have been around for many years prior to 1990.

“Modern roundabouts have three characteristics that rotaries and traffic circles (like the eight-lane circle in Paris around the Arc De Triomphe) do not generally have: (1) all traffic travels counterclockwise around a central island, (2) entering traffic yields to circulating traffic and (3) geometry that results in low vehicle speeds (generally ranging from 15-25 mph),” Shaw said. “Additionally, weaving or lane changing is eliminated with a multi-lane modern roundabout design.”

The article also cited a 2014 Indianapolis Star column by Carmel, Indiana Mayor Jim Brainard on the benefits of roundabouts:

• Safety: “Roundabouts virtually eliminate deadly head-on collisions and T-bone crashes. All motorists, not just those who see a red light, are forced to slow and yield as they enter the roundabout, making it less likely that an accident will occur.   ….”

• Cost: “Roundabouts save an average of 24,000 gallons of gas per year, per roundabout (based on a 10-site study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety).  … Roundabouts not only save money when it comes to purchasing gasoline, they are also cheaper to build and maintain. When improving a troubled intersection, cities and towns can save about $150,000, which is the cost of a traffic signal. Thousands of dollars per year are saved by not having to provide electricity to the signal, as well as the cost of maintenance.”

• Traffic flow: “Roundabouts improve the daily flow of traffic by eliminating congestion and the long backups that often plague busy stop sign or stoplight intersections. Typically, the maximum capacity of a four-way stop is about 1,500 vehicles per hour. A single-lane roundabout, on the other hand, has a capacity of 2,500-2,800 per hour, an increase of 65-90 percent in capacity.   ….”

Brainard also discussed the environmental, traffic calming, and economic development/business benefits of roundabouts in the article.

FHWA Roundabout Information Guide


MML Adopts 2015 Priorities: Road Funding, Planning Process, Ethics

September 17, 2014

At its Fall Conference last week, the Maryland Municipal League (MML) formally adopted its top priorities for the coming legislative session. Their three focus areas are to continue their efforts to restore highway user revenues, to streamline the processes for land use changes, and to reform requirements that municipal officials submit financial disclosures comparable to those by state officials.

From the MML bulletin, describing the topics recommended to the full membership by its Legislative Committee:

For the sixth straight year, the Committee recommended that the membership adopt restoration of Highway User Revenues (HURs) as a priority. Over that time period, cities and towns saw deductions in HUR receipts of up to 95%. MML efforts to address this issue have in each of the past two years resulted in one-time restoration of over half of the lost transportation revenues.
The Committee also recommended adoption of a priority to address a question of whether an elected municipal governing body or a planning commission has final authority to dictate the shape of a municipal comprehensive master plan. The proposal also seeks to expand the time period during which an elected body may consider planning commission comprehensive plan recommendations before it must act on them.
Lastly, the Committee recommended adoption of a priority to modify state-imposed financial disclosure requirements for municipal officials to focus on issues more relevant to local municipal government interests.

MACo and county governments have been actively supporting HUR restoration, naming this as a top legislative initiative for the 2014 session. MACo’s process for adopting its own initiatives remain underway, but HUR restoration figures heavily into that planning. Counties have also joined municipal governments with raising concerns on the other issues adopted as MML priorities.

Notably absent from the list of League priorities is a proposal to alter laws regarding property tax setoffs, which has been raised by municipal members in varying places in recent years, but failed to gain support of the League as an organizational priority. MACo and MML representatives have been engaged in talks over process and practices in this area, partially arising from this continued interest.


Maryland Planning Commissioners Association Hosts 31st Annual Conference

September 16, 2014

 

Maryland Planning Commissioners Association logo

The Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) is hosting its 31 annual conference for planning commissioners and boards of appeals members on October 16 and 17 in Solomons Island, Maryland.  Full registration is $100 ($129 after September 29).    MPCA’s conference planning page contains further information about the event, including registration, directions, hotel accommodations, and the general program:

Thursday, October 16

Planning Commissioner and Board of Appeals Training The first day of the conference (12 to 3:30 pm) begins with three hours of Planning Commissioner Training* that will satisfy the requirements of the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009. The training is beneficial for experienced commissioners as well as those interested in learning more about citizen planning.  *The training is free but you will need to register to attend. Register at this link   

Tour of the Calvert Marine Museum A free personal tour of the Calvert Marine Museum has been arranged for MPCA conference attendees. The museum is a public, non-profit regionally oriented museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and interpretation of the culture and natural history of Southern Maryland. The tour starts at 2 pm and is approximately one hour. Please indicate that you will be attending the tour on the registration.

Evening Dinner  Join your fellow Commissioners on dinner as you arrive the evening before the conference. This event is being offered by the MPCA as part of the conference registration price. For those who are not attending the Friday conference, this dinner is availbale at an exceptional value of $30.

 Friday, October 17

The specifics of the conference program will be announced soon. The following session topics will be covered at the Friday conference. As is the tradition of the MPCA conference, it promises a full day of back-to-back sessions packed with useful information on timely topics.

Wind energy (plenary session)

TMDL/credit trading

Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund

Nut & Bolts: Basic what-you-need-to-know about being a planner

Home business occupancy

Infill growth & parking

Sustainable Communities Tax Credits – small business program (new)

Click here to register for the conference.  This includes the free Thursday planning commissioner/board of appeals training.

Click here to register just for the Thursday planning commissioner/boards of appeal training.

 


Free Resources and Tips for Researching State, Federal, and Local Law

September 15, 2014

imla

At this year’s Annual Conference of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, research librarians and attorneys shared information on the best free resources for researching local, state, and federal law. These resources may be helpful for county elected officials and county employees seeking information about comparative laws in other jurisdictions, or researching federal laws and regulations that have an effect on local practices.

Here are a few resources that were shared at the Conference:

State and Federal Case Law

Google Scholar is a great resource for US Supreme Court decisions, and state and federal case law.  Good Scholar allows the user to search all federal courts, and state courts of appeal and supreme courts.  The site has a built-in case citator.

Federal Law

The Office of the Law Revision Council’s version of the US Code includes current and past editions of the Code, and shows pending updates to the Code.  The search tool allows for smart searches, such as proximity connectors.

Federal Regulations

e-CRF provides a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations. If you sign up with federalregister.gov, you may receive email alerts when a specific agency is about to issue a new rule.

Additional Research

Several libraries provide research guides for state and local law.  In Maryland, resources include The Maryland State Law Library’s Gateway to Maryland Law, the Thurgood Marshall Law Library’s Maryland Research Guide, and Georgetown Law Library’s Maryland Resources In-Depth.  The UCLA Law Library provides links to online municipal codes in every state. The Harvard Law Library provides several resources for legal and law-related research.

Google Scholar also provides a search tool for academic journal articles.  When articles require registered access to publication or research databases, attorneys may ask their alma maters for remote access to scholarly articles and other publications via their university’s law library.  Alternatively, searching for the article’s author may yield a free version of the article on the author’s own personal website.

 

 


Urban Streams Subject to Increased Salt and Calcium Levels According to Studies

September 12, 2014

A September 10 Baltimore Sun article discussed a recent series of studies that were published in a special issue of the journal Biochemistry which examined how urban development affects water and stream quality over time.  Several key findings of the studies related to increasing salt and calcium levels in nearby waterways.  The studies looked at a diverse cross-section of United States cities, including Baltimore, Boston, and San Juan.  From the article:

If current trends continue, Marylanders may not have to go “down-y oshun” in future to dip their toes in salt water. Thanks to liberal de-icing of our roads in winter and chronic sewage leaks, salinity levels are rising in Baltimore area streams  – with at least one already a third as tangy as Ocean City surf. …

Urbanization increases the saltiness of streams flowing through it. In addition to runoff of road salt, salinity is raised by cracked sewage pipes leaking chloride-laden waste – from humans’ salt-heavy diet.

Urban streams also have elevated calcium levels, a byproduct of rainfall and weather dissolving concrete frequently made with limestone.  Researchers dubbed the proliferation of such concrete a new geologic formation – “urban karst.”


Calvert County Seeks to Expand Prince Frederick Priority Funding Area

September 4, 2014

An August 29 SoMDNews article reported that the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners want to add 100 additional acres to the Prince Frederick priority funding area (PFA).  The new PFA could also be designated as a sustainable community.

A priority funding area is a growth area defined by state law and designated by local governments to target state infrastructure investment, said Jenny Plummer-Welker, principal planner, Wednesday.

Sustainable communities are also state programs. “Places designated by the state of Maryland as sustainable communities are to provide focal points for dense mixed-use economic development and revitalization,” Plummer-Welker said Tuesday.  …

Currently, the county’s designated sustainable community areas include the entire municipality of North Beach, a portion of Chesapeake Beach, a portion of the Prince Frederick Town Center and the town centers of Dunkirk, Lusby and Solomons, according to a staff memo.

The proposed addition to the Prince Frederick priority funding area includes the property around the Calvert Tabernacle and Symphony Woods, Plummer-Welker said.

The article also noted that the Commissioners discussed the potential incorporation of the Chesapeake Ranch Estates in the Lusby area, with Plummer-Welker responding that the Estates would not likely be designated as a sustainable community as it lacks the required mixed-use and commercial economic development components.


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