Land Preservation Workgroup Members: Preserve Funding Formula; Consider POS Funding Restoration

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a Land Preservation Workgroup has been meeting to make recommendations regarding land preservation and easement acquisition programs funded through the State transfer tax, including Program Open Space (POS), Rural Legacy, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, and the Maryland Environmental Trust. At the Workgroup’s August 26, 2015, meeting representatives for each of the programs uniformly argued against changing the transfer tax funding formula, noting that the programs were successful and served distinct purposes.

Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Ann Swanson also offered a proposal calling for an end to the “raiding” of state and local POS funding by FY 2018 and a return to using General Funds derived from the transfer tax rather than general obligation bonds to support POS. The proposal acknowledged the important role POS plays in both land acquisition and the construction of recreational facilities.

The proposal would also eliminate any POS funding repayments that were promised prior to FY 2016 but not yet made, except for a $90 million repayment to stateside POS that is statutorily mandated.  There was some discussion of allowing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use some or all of the $90 million for critical park maintenance. Attending Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton and Delegate Tawanna Gaines expressed support for the proposal.  MACo and Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) representative John Byrd also supported the proposal.

Based on the Workgroup’s discussion, DNR will begin writing a draft set of recommendations that will be discussed at the Workgroup’s next scheduled meeting on October 6.

For further information, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Businesses Play Key Role in Revitalization & Gentrification

An August 26, 2015, Sustainable City Network article analyzed the key role businesses can play in revitalizing and gentrifying a failing neighborhood. Many urban areas that are undergoing revitalization struggle between attracting established business brands, like Starbucks or Whole Foods, that attract growth and small businesses that maintain the character and flavor of the neighborhood. From the article:

Have you heard of “the Whole Foods effect?”

In the real estate world it’s considered a phenomena whereby the arrival of a Whole Foods, an upscale grocery store featuring organic produce and products, can predict a neighborhood’s gentrification. The event supposedly signals a tipping point, leading to rising property values in the neighborhood and the addition of similarly upscale stores, boutiques and retail outlets nearby.

As it turns out, the theory has some evidence to back it up. According to a 2012 Salon magazine article, “Evidence suggests that Whole Foods can accelerate gentrification in particular ways. A new Whole Foods may not cause property values to shoot up on its own, but it can set into motion a series of events that change neighborhoods.” …

While risky, the promise of untapped markets in new areas appeals to many businesses, especially those with deep pockets and a household name. For example, coffee giant Starbucks is thought to be capable of kick starting the gentrification of a previously under-served neighborhood via market-savvy calculation about where to open its stores.

The location of new businesses, both large and small, can act as an anchor for revitalization efforts and be used as a selling point for new home buyers or tenants:

[A 2012] Business Insider article cited a real estate expert who was very straightforward.

“One of the best ways to stretch your buying dollar is to find a neighborhood that is in transition,” he said. “Called fringe or transitional neighborhoods, they are typically close to major metropolitan areas and were once neglected and less desirable. Is there a trendy restaurant where a tattoo parlor used to be? These neighborhoods are now beginning to enjoy a new life and your goal is the find them.”

In a lengthy report on gentrification by American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program, one Los Angeles professional house flipper explained how he markets revitalizing neighborhoods to potential homebuyers. He admitted he relies on the small businesses that set up shop in a revitalizing neighborhood, going so far as to call them a “seed of transformation — something he could point to and say, look, this neighborhood is changing. He needed to convince potential home buyers of this, yes. But just as important, he needed to convince the people who were giving him money to flip those homes.”

The article also discussed how some communities are trying to protect neighborhoods from the negative effects of gentrification, which can include the displacement of small businesses and existing residents:

In response to the issue, concerned New York City business owners, residents and advocates have brought the Small Business Jobs Survival Act before the New York City Council which, if passed, would allow commercial tenants more negotiating power in the lease renewal process and place certain restrictions on rent increases.

While gentrification’s increased costs are often the main reason for controversy among neighborhood residents, the changes also have brought unexpected financial savings in some cases. A recent New York Times article detailed how some New York City co-op residents were able to offset building maintenance costs by opening the ground floor to upscale restaurants and shops willing to pay a great deal in rent for the location.

The article details how, as a result of the opening in one building of a Mrs. Green’s Natural Market and a restaurant focusing on gluten-free dishes, one resident’s monthly maintenance fees went from $816 per month to just $20.40, and a “special assessment” fee of $170 per month was eliminated as well.

Locating in a residential building can be a win-win for businesses as well as residents, [Urban Land Institute Senior Resident Fellow Ed] McMahon said. …

There are lessons to be learned from small communities as well, confronted less by gentrification but seeking the same preservation and retention of unique, small businesses and social places to meet as their neighbors in larger cities. Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, helped launch “community-supported enterprises” in a number of Vermont towns, which directly engage the community in helping to open or maintain local businesses by selling “shares” to defray operation and equipment expenses.

“Community ownership of the real estate, equipment and furnishings protects the community’s investment as well as the charitable investment,” Bruhn wrote on the organization’s website. “It also makes it possible for a start-up business to start-up without debt. Most of these enterprises are more likely to succeed if there is limited or no debt. If the community owns the space, equipment and furnishings; and one business fails, the infrastructure is still there for the next edition.”

 

Baltimore Metropolitan Council Unveils New Quarterly Newsletter

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The Baltimore Metropolitan Council has launched a new digital newsletter, COG Quarterly, which consolidates the Council’s previous outreach efforts.  From an announcement email by the Council’s Executive Director Mike Kelly:

Over the years, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council has brought you transportation and planning information, and data for the region through a variety of newsletters and reports. As the organization continues to evolve and support our local governments, we thought it would be wise to put all this information in one place – COG Quarterly, our new interactive digital newsletter that highlights our work as the region’s council of governments (COG.)
We used a magazine format to fill COG Quarterly with feature stories, maps, photos, useful information, regional profiles and ideas on transportation, housing, workforce development, purchasing, air quality and more. Our goal is to highlight not just our work but the work of our member jurisdictions and bring you interesting regional stories that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about. …
We hope you enjoy it and would welcome your feedback at COGquarterly@baltometro.org or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

2015 Eastern Shore Local Exchange Will Focus on Land Use & Water Resource Issues

The 2015 Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange will focus on best management practices for land use and take place on Thursday, September 25 in Easton, Maryland.  The theme of the event is “Helping Our Communities Plan For The Future” and is open to all county officials, whether from the Eastern Shore or not.  The Exchange is hosted by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and the Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange Steering Committee.

From the event’s registration packet:

We are pleased to provide the opportunity for you to attend the 2nd Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange. The Exchange’s goal is to provide an event where local government representatives and citizens can share information concerning best management practices for land use and other issues. …

Agenda topics at this year’s event include:

  • Comprehensive Plans in Maryland: What has changed?

  • The Shore’s Water Resources: Innovative Approaches and Funding Sources to address issues

  • Potential impact of State legislation on the Eastern Shore

The cost to attend the 1-day event is $25 and registrations must be received by Thursday, September 17.  Five AICP CM credits have been approved for this year’s event.

For additional information, please contact Nancy Nunn at nnunn@umd.edu or 410.827.6202 (ext. 128).

2015 Eastern Shore Local Government Exchange Registration Packet and Agenda

Counties Grapple With Zoning For Medical Cannabis

As the reality of licensed medical cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries looms closer, counties and municipalities are grappling with how to properly zone and cite such facilities.  While no county has expressed interest in banning the facilities, debate is underway as to the proper level of zoning authority counties should have regarding location and citing.  While medical cannabis advocates tend a favor a minimum of local government oversight, counties and municipalities must balance valid public access issues with community concerns, public nuisance issues, security and infrastructure requirements of the facilities, and federal law and funding issues for medical facilities and pharmacies.  Additionally, they must consider whether the zoning they create now would still work if the State were to ultimately legalize marijuana in the future.

Zoning issues were one of the topics discussed at a medical cannabis session at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference and will very likely be a key topic at MACo’s 2015 December Winter Conference.

2015-08-18 Conduit Street Article on MACo Summer Conference Medical Cannabis Session

The debate intensified with the introduction of legislation by Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is seeking to comprehensively address county siting concerns at the start of the licensing process.  Almond has stated that she supports medical cannabis and that the provisions of the introduced bill were unintentionally too restrictive and could result in a de facto ban of dispensaries in the county. She also stated that if the bill were to move it would be amended to have reasonable zoning and siting limitations. Baltimore County is the first county to entertain legislation on the issue.

An August 14, 2015, Baltimore Sun Editorial argued that there are valid concerns that need to be addressed with medical cannabis but cautioned county lawmakers from immediately imposing additional restrictions.

[Prior to the issuance of regulations by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission], we hope county lawmakers will hold off at least until then on enacting additional restrictions of their own on medical marijuana. People are understandably nervous about what the law will mean for their communities, but it would be a pity if local lawmakers overcompensated by loading medical marijuana down with so many restrictions and obstacles to access that it can’t help the patients with cancer, epilepsy and other illnesses the law was intended to benefit. Rather than undermine the program before it even gets off the ground the wiser course would be to wait and see whether it can be successful.

While noting that some counties see growing and processing facilities as potential job and revenue creators, the editorial saw the location of dispensaries as more problematic.  The editorial argued for dealing with dispensaries under existing zoning laws and treating them no different from a pharmacy:
In principle there’s no reason medical marijuana dispensaries should be treated differently than traditional pharmacies or drug stores. No one would suggest banning those businesses near churches or schools, even though pharmacies routinely dispense prescription drugs that are far more dangerous than cannabis. The zoning laws applied to marijuana dispensaries ought to be no more restrictive than those governing a CVS or Walgreens.
Almond submitted an August 18 response to the Sun editorial, arguing that the State’s medical cannabis law always provided for the application of local zoning and that her proposed law would bring clarity and certainty to the process.  She also stated that zoning should also account for the possibility of the full legalization of medical marijuana in the future.

A fundamental rule of zoning dictates that if something is not explicitly in the zoning regulations then it is not in the zoning regulations. Currently medical cannabis is not specifically mentioned in Baltimore County law. By authoring legislation regarding medical marijuana, my goal is to provide clarity for both investors in medical cannabis facilities and citizens who want to ensure that these new growing, processing and dispensing businesses will locate in areas acceptable to the community. …

Further, Marylanders do not expect county government to put its head in the sand and ignore what likely comes next. The examples of Colorado and Oregon, combined with statements by members of the state legislature make it clear that sometime in the next “year or two” legislation for the legalization of recreational marijuana is a real possibility in Maryland.

If this happens, the likely first locations growing and selling recreational marijuana will be the existing medical cannabis growers and dispensaries. Therefore, my constituents will rightly expect me to take this into consideration when legislating the zoning of these facilities.

Almond also stated that she was “certain” her proposed legislation will be amended and changed as needed, both prior to its potential passage and in the future.  She also asked the General Assembly to respect local land use authority:

Based on my discussions at the MACo Summer Conference, I am confident that county government throughout Maryland will meet the new challenge of medical cannabis and whatever lies in our state’s future. I request that the members of the General Assembly respect the role of county government as we begin to grapple with medical cannabis and the specter of recreational marijuana.

Panel Highlights County Planning Requirements at #MACoCon

A panel of local and state land use practitioners highlighted some of the different kinds of land use plans – both large scale and project specific – that counties are responsible for creating or integrating into their own plans at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference.

Caroline County Planning and Codes Director Katheleen Freeman discussed comprehensive master plan requirements.  She explained the 10-year planning cycle, Maryland’s 12 land use “visions” which drive local comprehensive plans, and required and optional plan elements.  Freeman stressed that the adoption process typically takes several years from when a planning commission begins to develop or review a plan and the plan is ultimately adopted by the local government’s legislative body.  The comprehensive plan then guides subsequent zoning ordinances; watershed plans; solid waste management plans; water and sewer plans; and land preservation, parks and recreation plans.

Washington County Environmental Management Director Julie Pippel explained a county’s water and sewer plan, which follows the comprehensive plan and must ensure ample public water supply and wastewater processing.  After discussing the required chapters and maps that must be included in the plan, she detailed the development and submission process, which can take months or years.  The draft plan must be submitted to the Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE), Natural Resources, and Planning for comments.  Ultimately, the plan must be approved by MDE.  Pippel urged counties to meet with MDE early in the process and include every potential water project in the plan to avoid triggering an amendment process.

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks Master Planner Brooke Farquhar discussed the land preservation, parks, and recreation plan (LPPRP) that covers a county’s parks, recreational facilities, natural resource land conservation, and agricultural land preservation.  The LPPRP is a prerequisite for receiving local-side Program Open Space funding from the State.  In addition to helping county governments evaluate and manage their recreation and land preservation programs, Farquhar noted that LPPRPs form the foundation of the State’s Land Preservation and Recreation Plan, which is required every 5 years for the State to receive federal funding under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.  After walking through how Montgomery County approaches and uses its LPPRP, she discussed several new LPPRP requirements that will take effect in 2017.

Finally, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Program Manager Marian Honeczy discussed forest conservation requirements in local comprehensive plans and broader implications of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act.  She highlighted a 2013 mandate requiring additional information on forest cover and other forestry data in local comprehensive plans.  She also discussed how county projects much comply with either the Maryland Forest Conservation Act or with an equivalent county ordinance.  Honeczy noted that the Act now has a goal of maintaining the current statewide 40% forest canopy but other laws or policies push for increasing tree plantings, including the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan.

Maryland Senator Stephen Hershey, Jr., moderated the panel.

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(Senator Hershey (standing) introduces the panelists (seated, from left to right) Farquhar, Pippel, Freeman, and Honeczy)

Sustainable Growth Commission Discusses Past and Future at #MACoCon

Representatives from the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission highlighted some of current and pending projects they are working on at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference on August 14.  The Commission continues to study and make recommendations on a wide range of Smart Growth and land use issues in Maryland.

Ballard Spahr Partner and Commission Chair Jon Laria provided a short overview of the Commission and then discussed the Commission’s recently released Reinvest Maryland initiative, which includes policy recommendations for encouraging infill, redevelopment, and revitalization in existing built areas.  Land Stewardship Solutions Planner and Commission Member Greg Bowen discussed the Commission’s current work on rural economies and rural Smart Growth issues.  Maryland Delegate and Commission Vice Chair Mary Ann Lisanti discussed the pending release of the Commission’s Status Check project, which would annually publish a uniform set of growth and development data for individual counties and regions in the state.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel and Commission Member Les Knapp concluded the panel by stressing the Commission’s usefulness as a sounding board and advisory body.  Knapp cited the Reinvest Maryland strategy as an example of the positive work the Commission can generate.  He also expressed satisfaction that the Commission was taking a serious look at rural growth issues, something that MACo has maintained is lacking in Maryland’s current Smart Growth model.  Finally, Knapp noted that the Status Check project could produce useful information but cautioned that the Status Check data should:  (1) not be used as a county grading or ranking system, (2) be presented in a neutral manner; and (3) include necessary caveats to minimize misperceptions.

Maryland Delegate and Commission Member Stephen Lafferty moderated the panel.

Big Box Development at #MACoCon

What’s in the Box?!?! The Challenges and Opportunities of Big Box Development was a panel discussion held at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference on August 13. The panel was moderated by the Honorable J.B. Jennings of the Maryland State Senate. On the panel was: (1) Andrea Van Arsdale, Director of BaltimoreWhat's in the Box  County Office of Planning; (2) Lisa Harris Jones, Founding Member and Attorney at Law of Harris Jones & Malone, LLC; and (3) Gregory Slater, Director of Planning and Preliminary Engineering at the Maryland State Highway Administration.

This panel discussed both the opportunities and challenges of locating “big box” retailors, like Walmart and Target. An example of an opportunity that was mentioned was that a big box store could attract a shopping crowd that also patronizes and provides financial benefits to nearby smaller specialty stores. An example of a challenge that was mentioned was local stores employing people with big box benefits.

The major takeaway from this session is that big box development is not necessarily bad, just complicated. As Van Arsdale reminds us, “retail in these types of formats are always changing.” These changes can range from the size of the space to what the outside can look like. However, these changes should be regulated by local officials and representatives from the store.

Big box development is a complicated issue and should be taken seriously as there are pros and cons to these types of stores.  Both should be considered when trying to make the right decision for your community.

Learning How PALS Program Can Help County Governments at #MACoCon

A panel discussed how the University of Maryland’s new Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program can assist local governments in tackling complex policy issues broadly related to economic, social, or environmental sustainability at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference on August 12. Under the program, a county simply articulates its needs and University faculty and students from across campus pool their resources and thinking to analyze and address those needs.

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(Jan Gardner (standing) introduces PALS panelists (sitting from left to right) Matthew Davis, Jahantab Siddiqui, and Uri Avin)

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education Planning and Design Center Director and Research Professor Uri Avin urged counties to view PALS as extension of your staff and stressed the cost-effectiveness of the PALS approach.  He also highlighted the “tremendous range of issues” the PALS program can tackle, including economic development, land use, transportation, environmental, and public safety challenges.

City of Frederick Comprehensive Planning Division Manager Matthew Davis discussed Frederick City’s positive experience with PALs.  The City felt it got a high return on the $90,000 it invested and received feedback on a variety of projects, including a hiking trail, and the Greater Carroll Creek revitalization project.  He also noted that the program provided a “morale bump” as students and professors were very interactive with the City.  Frederick City endorsed PALS and plans on using the program again.

Howard County Deputy Chief of Staff Jahantab Siddiqui noted that under the direction of County Executive Allan Kittleman, the County has expanded its sustainability office beyond just an environmental focus to cover a broad range of community issues.  The County felt PALS was a good investment despite budget pressures and both the Columbia Association and University of Maryland have shouldered some of the costs. The County is paying $75,000 and the Association is paying $25,000 for PALS to examine 38 wide-ranging county issues.  Several examples include: Route 1 revitalization and employment, a business model for profitable farming, returning offenders as employees, using the arts as a development tool, addressing stormwater runoff, and meeting the needs of an aging population.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner moderated the Session.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement Update at #MACoCon

Attendees to the 2015 MACo Summer Conference were updated on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement management strategies on August 12. The 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement consolidated commitments from six states and the District of Columbia to develop and follow 29 management strategies for 31 Bay cleanup goals. The strategies include the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and other federal water quality mandates but also address issues like habitat and fisheries restoration, climate change, and the release of toxic chemicals into the Bay.

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(From Left to Right, Speakers Albert Todd, Benjamin Grumbles, Mark Belton, and Moderator Charles Otto)

Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton said a new mission of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was to target nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, noting that Maryland was the only Bay state that was “green across the board” in meeting its watershed agreement goals.  DNR will take a 2-pronged approach to the agreement: (1) making sure Maryland remains a leader in its progress; and (2) making sure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds other states accountable for their performance.  He also discussed key funding sources for local water quality projects.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles stated the Department of the Environment (MDE) was taking a “citizen-centered, results oriented, market-based” approach to the Bay agreement.  This means a focus on local and regional actions that are both practical and produce maximum results for the resources invested.  He also noted Maryland must be “polite but persistent” in working with EPA and other states to ensure all states are meeting their goals.  Regarding recent Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit issues, Grumbles complimented MACo on helping to “make a road map for moving forward.” He also stated the nutrient credit trading regulations were going to be released by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and that finishing an “Accounting for Growth” policy was a priority for MDE.

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Executive Director Albert Todd discussed local government participation in the management strategies.  After outlining the background and purpose of the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC), he noted that LGAC is focusing on six strategies where local governments can or are already playing a role: (1) water quality and stormwater; (2) stream health; (3) land conservation; (4) healthy watersheds; (5) stewardship; and (6) urban tree canopy.

Maryland Delegate Charles Otto moderated the Session.