Planning on Planning? You’ll Need a Plan for That

Learn about the multitude of land use plans that counties must draft and adopt at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference.


While many people know that a county must develop a detailed comprehensive plan to guide development and zoning ordinances, not everyone is aware of the numerous other plans that a county must create (and sometimes get approved by the State) in order to meet various land use and environmental goals. Besides comprehensive plans, counties must develop and update various related plans, such as: water and sewer plans; forest conservation plans; land preservation, parks, and recreation plans; and growth tier designations for septic systems. Counties must also oversee various plans for individual developments, such as stormwater management plans and grading and sediment control plans. Panelists will discuss the components of the comprehensive plan and many of the other land use plans that counties must create, review, or enforce.


  • Katheleen Freeman, Director, Caroline County Department of Planning and Codes
  • Julie Pippel, Director, Washington County Division of Environmental Management
  • Brooke Farquhar, Master Planner/Supervisor, Park and Trail Planning, Park Planning and Stewardship Division, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks
  • Marian Honeczy, Manager, Urban Forestry Programs, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Moderator: The Honorable Stephen Hershey, Jr., Maryland State Senate

Date & Time: Friday, August 14, 2015, 2:15 PM – 3:15 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.

Growth Commission Seeking 2016 Sustainable Growth Award Nominations

logo of Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is seeking nominations for its 2016 Sustainable Growth Awards. The deadline for submission is September 18.  From the Commission’s nomination webpage:

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards celebrate significant achievement by individuals, businesses, organizations and local governments to realize the 12 planning visions adopted by the Maryland General Assembly. The awards promote exemplary work that represents or inspires collaboration, innovation, conservation, community impact and quality of life.

The fourth annual awards are presented by the commission and are the highest level of recognition for managed growth and development in the state. The 2016 Sustainable Growth Awards will be presented at the fourth annual Maryland Sustainable Growth Forum this winter.

The Categories

The Sustainable Growth Awards are given for the following categories.

Leadership and Service

For activities or accomplishments that advance public appreciation, understanding and/or involvement in promoting smart growth and sustainable communities at the local, regional or state level.

Smart Growth Communities

For facilitating or creating development that addresses at least one or more of Maryland’s 12 planning visions. Nominations will be evaluated in two groups: (1) Public projects/programs and (2) Private developments


For accomplishments in protecting or improving farms, forests, natural resources and the waters of Maryland. …


  • Individuals, nonprofit and for-profit organizations or institutions and federal, state and local agencies are all eligible to receive Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards.
  • Current MDP staff, Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission members and projects solely sponsored by MDP are not eligible.
  • Self-nominations are accepted.

Review and Selection Process

All nomination materials are reviewed for completeness by Maryland Planning Department staff prior to presentation to the award committee of the commission. This committee then recommends the award recipients to the full commission for consideration and final approval.


To nominate a project, organization or individual for a Sustainable Growth Award, complete the online nomination form or the downloadable nomination form (Word document) and submit electronically to and by no later than 5 pm on Friday, September 18. For more detailed information, download the nomination brochure.

NACo Session on Medical Cannabis Offers Insight into Effects of Legalization

The National Association of Counties Annual Conference in Charlotte North Carolina featured a educational workshop, Medical and Recreational Marijuana Legalization: Impacts on Counties.

The workshop included a big picture discussion of the issues of transitioning to medical marijuana and recreational marijuana usage, and specifics including projected revenues from marijuana sales. County policy directors for the Washington and Colorado state county associations presented on the state/local roles in licensing, drug-free workplace policies, taxation and financing the regulatory structure and the difficulty in reconciling state legalization with the federal Controlled Substances Act. Some aspects that I thought were the most interesting included the level of fraud with medical marijuana, the need for zoning changes in agricultural zones, and the difficulties and limitations of local control.  Here are some bullets from the slides:

Medical vs. “Medical”

  • How do you create a system that is resistant to fraud?
  • What are the roles/responsibilities of the doctors?
  • What does patient access look like?
  • Who regulates the “bad” actors? State or local?
  • What happens when a well-child visit by social services reveals the presence of marijuana plants in the home?

What We Learned

  • Medical vs. recreational
  • Problems vs. process of setting up new markets
  • Difficult to monetize impacts to local government
  • Take the money
  • Local control is a two-edged sword
  • Message effectively

For more information:

Here is a link to a video of the workshop.

Here is a link to the power point from the workshop.

An article from NACo, Legal pot issues ‘slant’ westward, have implications for broader U.S.

JUST ADDED — This year’s MACo Summer Conference will also feature a Thursday session on medical cannabis — see more details on Conduit Street.

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.

Frederick News-Post Op-Ed Supports Regulatory Reform Commission

A July 15 , 2015, Frederick News-Post editorial expressed its support for the Regulatory Reform Commission that was recently created by Governor Larry Hogan.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Hogan created the Commission to review every single state regulation and where appropriate make recommendations to repeal or improve them.  Despite noting concerns from the environmental, labor and nonprofit communities about the composition of the Commission’s membership, the New-Post editorial  was supportive of the Commission’s goal of making Maryland more business-friendly:

If this committee operates openly and fairly, we support its mission. It can’t do any harm to revisit these regulations and take a fresh look at them. Things change, and regulations shouldn’t be left on the books without periodic reviews of their necessity, appropriateness and impact. …


Environmental, labor and nonprofit interests are not represented at all on the commission, which has generated some concern among those groups. Hogan, however, is being upfront about the commission’s charter. …

[Hogan said] that the commission would be looking at rules involving a wide range of areas, including, [a Washington] Post story said, “the environment, transportation, health, labor standards, occupational licensing, banking and finance, land use and insurance.” The goal is to address excessive regulation, high taxes and anti-business sentiment, which the governor called the three “deadly self-inflicted wounds” that are stymieing business success in Maryland.

Anxiety among those interest groups that have no seat at the table is understandable, but if the commission’s work is open and accessible to them and the general public, everyone’s voice can be heard.

Governor Hogan Creates Regulatory Reform Commission

Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order yesterday to establish a Regulatory Reform Commission charged with conducting a comprehensive review of Maryland’s regulatory climate in an effort to identify problems that could potentially impact Maryland’s business environment. As described in the Governor’s press release,

“For years, over-burdensome and out of control regulations were making it impossible for businesses to stay in Maryland,” said Governor Hogan. “We promised a top to bottom review of all state regulations and policies to make sure that Maryland could once again operate under a fair, accountable and balanced regulatory climate. This Commission will look to see what regulations have outlived their usefulness, have failed to accomplish their objectives, or are so poorly written, implemented, or interpreted that they cause much more harm than good.”

Public meetings in various regions of the state will be conducted to study the impact of Maryland’s regulatory climate on the business community, relevant stakeholders and the public. Various sectors will be reviewed and analyzed including, but not limited to transportation, environment and land use, health care, business occupations and licensing, banking and financial services, capital formation insurance, labor and employment, agriculture, and tourism.

Lt. Governor Rutherford will oversee the work of the Commission, which will remain in effect for three years and provide annual reports to the Governor by December 1 each year.

As reported by the Washington Post, some members of the General Assembly raised issues with the formation of the group.

Democratic lawmakers suggested Thursday that they’re well ahead of Hogan on fixing the state’s business climate. Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) noted that his party pushed through legislation that requires the state to consider how new regulations would impact small businesses and created the Augustine Commission, which provided recommendations this year for improving economic development.

Additional coverage can be found in the Baltimore Sun and Daily Record (subscription required).

Governor’s Executive Order

St. Mary’s County Residential Growth Cap Remains Inactive

A July 3 SoMdNews article reported that a St. Mary’s County policy designed to limit extreme residential growth remains uneeded.  The policy, adopted in 2008 before the housing market crash, allows 1.9 percent lots for new homes, based on the current number of homes.  According to the article, St. Mary’s could have approved up to 815 lots for new homes during the past 12 months but only 84 lots were actually created.  From the article:

The growth policy “has yet, however, to really affect the number of dwellings we can approve,” said planner David Chapman. “We really have not tested the caps.” During this latest year, only 10 percent of what could have been approved was requested. …

Before the growth policy was adopted, the housing market was going full bore. Between 600 and 800 homes a year were being approved in St. Mary’s County, Chapman said.

“It’s like buying a snow blower and not having it snow for 10 years,” [St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management Director Phil] Shire said.

The growth policy also separates growth between designated development areas (where 70 percent of new growth is allowed) and the county’s Rural Preservation District (allowing 30 percent of new growth).

Before the growth policy began, “we were developing the [rural preservation district] at a scary rate,” Shire said. “We had to do something to get the growth in the growth areas. We wouldn’t have had much rural land left if we kept going at that rate.”

The article also noted that the county commissioners felt that residential growth from the town of Leonardtown and the Wildewood neighborhood in California should be included in the county’s total residential growth numbers.  Currently, both those communities are excluded.


Carroll County Commissioners Limit Grandfathering For Non-Conforming Properties

A July 2, 2015, Carroll County Times article reported that the Carroll County Commissioners have adopted a zoning amendment that will limit the grandfathering of non-conforming properties (properties that do not meet current zoning designation descriptions).  The article noted the vote was 4-0 with Commissioner Doug Howard being absent.  From the article:

Phil Hager, director of the Department of Planning, Land Use and Development, said the text amendment to Chapter 158 will make the rights of a nonconforming-use property owner roughly equal with owners of a conforming use property.

Hager said the amendment applies to properties such as apartment complexes. If the owner of an apartment complex is notified the zoning designation will be changing to make it suitable for a lower volume of homes, the owner would not be able to greatly increase the footprint of the apartment complex. …

Hager said the record was kept open for 10 days after a hearing on June 18. No supplemental comment has been heard since the hearing. …

The amendment “hopefully should reduce the number of lawsuits that are going on and the legal actions within the county over nonconforming use expansion,” said [Commissioner Richard] Rothschild.


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.