Southern Maryland Forum Discusses PlanMaryland Concerns

May 1, 2012

An April 27 SoMdNews.com article reports on a forum where State and Calvert and Saint Mary’s County planning officials discussed the implementation of PlanMaryland.  The event  featured Maryland Department of  Planning Services Director Richard Josephson, Calvert County Director of planning and Zoning Chuck Johnston, and Saint Mary’s County Director of Land Use and Growth Management Phillip Shire.  Many counties have been concerned that PlanMaryland could intrude on local land use decision-making and in the 2012 Session MACo introduced and the General Assembly passed legislation which clarified the Plan’s scope.  Both county planners indicated an increased level of comfort with the Plan but noted that the Plan will likely drive State funding decisions in the future.

 “We provide a policy. We say this is what the state would like the local jurisdictions to do,” Josephson said, stressing that the state cannot force any jurisdictions to comply. “We can do that in a way that’s collaborative, that’s cooperative, with those local jurisdictions.”

Addressing concerns that the state is using the plan to override local planning and zoning, Josephson said the state will feel the effects more.  …

“I was very critical of PlanMaryland when I first read the early drafts,” Shire said. But like Johnston, he has since come to realize it’s “not really drastically different from county plans we have had in the past.”  …

While Josephson maintains the entire plan is voluntary, both Shire and Johnston said they believe in time, if they do not adhere to it, their counties will be ineligible for state aid.

“It all has to do with allocation of available resources,” Shire said. “I have to accept that as part of the game, if we want to be eligible for funding, we have to more or less prove ourselves.”

 


MACo Joins Sprawl and PlanMaryland Debate on Marc Steiner Show

April 27, 2012

On April 25, MACo Associate Director Les Knapp joined Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall and University of Maryland Public Policy Professor and former state legislator Gerald Winegrad on the Marc Steiner radio show to discuss sprawl and land use planning in Maryland.  The discussion centered on a March 30 Urbanite Magazine article entitled “The Era of Suburban Sprawl Has to End.  So Now What?”.  The article examines growth and sprawl trends in Maryland and debates whether PlanMaryland, the State’s land use and policy plan, will help control sprawl.

Both Secretary Hall and Senator Winegrad are quoted in the article.  Secretary Hall focused on Maryland’s long-term outlook and the slow but persistent land use changes caused by growth.  He made the following analogy:

“It’s like the boiled frog theory,” Hall says. “Put a frog in boiling water and he’ll jump out, but put him in warm water and keep increasing the heat, and he won’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. That’s what happens with growth. It seems like it happens overnight, but it doesn’t.”

Senator Winegrad argued that county and municipal governments are the cause of sprawl:

“Local governments make all the land use decisions, and they haven’t cared about sprawl so long as it maximizes their tax coffers,” Winegrad says.

Winegrad is sharply critical of a central tenet of [PlanMaryland], which allows local governments, rather than the state, to determine what land can be developed and what should be preserved. Such local discretion, he fears, will only perpetuate the madcap, fragmenting sprawl that has gone on for seventy-five years.

Senator Winegrad continued his attack on counties and municipalities during the radio show, charging that the current system of local land use decision-making was “corrupt” and that the State needs to take over making land use.  He dismissed PlanMaryland as a “nothing burger.”  Mr. Knapp argued that local officials best understand the needs of their citizens and are the most accountable.  He also noted the openness of the local comprehensive plan process and the fact that Maryland is number one in the nation for agricultural preservation based on State and local government efforts.   Secretary Hall argued that the State should have a role in land use planning but defended current State and local planning efforts as being one of the best in the nation.

Click here to listen to the hour-long debate.


MACo and MDP Agree on Amendments to PlanMaryland Bill

March 9, 2012

MACo and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) reached an agreement on amendments to MACo’s bill (HB 1201 / SB 532) that would codify the scope of the State Development Plan (ie PlanMaryland).  MACo presented the amendments as part of its testimony before the House Environmental Matters Committee on March 8.

As amended, the bills states that the Plan may not be used to deny a State-issued permit or funding mandated by statute or regulation, or in the annual State operating or capital budget.  The Plan does not supersede any state statute or regulation or local ordinance or regulation.  The Plan does not affect the State’s delegation of planning and zoning powers to the local governments under the various land use statutes.  Finally, the amended bill provides that the Plan may not require a local government to change or alter a local ordinance, regulation, or comprehensive plan.

MACo has never been opposed to the concept of a State Development Plan that served to better coordinate State agency policies and direct State funding.  However, MACo has expressed serious concerns over the current Plan’s potential scope and breadth and believes the final version of the Plan could eventually be expanded to become a litmus test for State permits and approvals.  The amended bill will more clearly define the role and scope of the Plan.

There are several key areas of the Plan that are still in development, including planning area designation criteria and the State’s implementation policies.  MACo will continue to advocate that the Plan’s ongoing development process be open and collaborative. 

 


Eastern Shore Delegation Considers PlanMaryland

January 16, 2012

A January 13 Cecil Whig article summarizes portions of a presentation earlier that day by Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall about PlanMaryland to the Eastern Shore delegation. 

Friday, legislators said PlanMaryland should have been brought before the General Assembly instead of going straight to the governor.

One of the biggest concerns was over a person’s ability to develop their own land and whether or not families would be compensated if land value was diminished.

Hall defended the plan, saying that it will map out areas to be planned and zoned for preservation, but even if certain land is given this distinction, this will not completely prohibit it from being developed.

The Star Democrat also posted a short video clip of the meeting on YouTube.


Presiding Officers Discuss the Gas Tax, Maintenance of Effort, Teacher Pensions and PlanMaryland

January 12, 2012

During an interview on the Mark Steiner show on WEAA-FM, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch highlighted a number of issues that will be discussed during the 90 day General Assembly Session.  Comments on issues of importance to counties are summarized below.

Possibility of Increase in the Gas Tax

President Miller stated that an influx of money in the Transportation Trust Fund is needed.  It is an economic development, quality of life, and jobs issue.

Speaker Busch commented that the Governor needs to reach out to those counties that have supported a gas tax to garner support from their delegations. There needs to be a ground swell of support to get this through.

Education Funding and Maintenance of Effort (MoE)

Speaker Busch stated that part of the structural deficit is due to an increase in education funding and he thinks the State will get to the Thorton level in Governor’s budget.  With respect to MoE, he commented that MoE is very important. We ask counties to meet a MoE (maintain a level of funding), but we now have counties in a situation where they can not meet MoE.  We need to ensure continued effort from local governments to meet the investments that State has made.

When asked how counties could be forced to meet MoE when some have tax caps in place, Speaker Busch responded that counties receive more money based on the wealth of the county.  There is no excuse for counties under this system not to make that contribution.  They have tax capacity, but choose not to use it.

President Miller suggested packaging together MOE , school construction, and a change in the pension plan so counties see the huge benefit.

Teacher Pensions

Speaker Busch stated that the question is whether or not there should be some shared liability.  That has been what the Senate President has been pushing.  He continued by saying that if  a shift happens, counties need to have a resource to pay for it.  When Social Security was transferred to the counties, they were given the ability to increase the piggy back tax.  There needs to be some kind of relationship worked out so it is done equitably.

President Miller commented that a pension shift should require MOE to be met. They are going to try to find a way to benefit all. Speaker Busch followed up with…their income tax comes from the state, the state can withhold the piggy back tax if it’s not met.

PlanMaryland

President Miller stated that he anticipates changes to the plan.  He commented further that this is not a war on rural Maryland, but an effort to protect sensitive areas in the State.  He said that they need to work with the counties to make sure development plans are responsible.

Speaker Busch commented that the plan is a starting point and that there will be some fine tuning in the House Environmental Matters Committee.


Governor Comments on Budget Shortfalls, Maintenance of Effort, and PlanMaryland

January 12, 2012

During an interview on the Mark Steiner show on WEAA-FM, Governor O’Malley highlighted a number of issues that will be discussed during the 90 day General Assembly Session.  Comments on issues of importance to counties are summarized below.

Three State Shortfalls and Possible Ways to Address Them

The Governor states that the State is facing shortfall in three areas:  1) General Fund; 2) Infrastructure; and 3) Water/Wastewater Infrastructure.  He commented that these shortfalls could be addressed through an increase in the sales tax, gas tax, and Bay Restoration Fee.

Education Funding and Maintenance of Effort

The Governor stated that although funding has not been as dramatic in the last two years, the State has given record high amounts of funding for education.  With respect to school construction, the proposed $370 million in FY 2013 would be the largest sum committed since the FY 2008 budget.

With respect to MoE, the Governor commented that roughly half of funding for schools comes from the State and half comes from the counties.  “What has occurred is that as budgetary pressures have increased, some counties, not all,  have tried to find ways to do less.  We can’t allow counties to do less on their end.”

When asked whether he would support efforts to fix MoE, he responded yes, you could count on his support and that he looks forward to working with presiding officers to do so.

PlanMaryland

The Governor stated that we have had a number of meetings and will continue to do so.  The State has been moving methodically, openly, and transparently to determine where remaining green prints and ag prints are located.  We’ve got to protect these areas.  Next logical extension is areas in center, those areas which make the most sense to grow and those areas that makes the least sense.  The State is not going to finance expensive, damaging,  and counterproductive sprawl like what may have occurred when we did not have sound planning and maps.


MACo Prepares Summary of Final Version of PlanMaryland

January 9, 2012

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Martin O’Malley has accepted the final version of PlanMaryland via Executive Order.  The final version of the Plan is 116 pages cover to cover.  MACo has prepared a 3-page summary of the Plan that provides an overview of each section of the Plan, including language and quotes that MACo believes are especially relevant to county officials.  Extra detail is provided for Chapter 4, which deals with the designation of new “planning areas” that will focus State funding and policies.  MACo believes this is potentially the most significant section of the Plan for county governments and it is also the section that has been changed the most since the original draft.

MACo will continue to work with the Administration and the Maryland Department of Planning to address our remaining concerns with the Plan and will consider any legislation introduced during the 2012 Session relating to PlanMaryland.


St. Mary’s Commissioner Criticizes PlanMaryland

January 2, 2012

In a December 25 letter to the Baltimore Sun, Saint Mary’s County Commissioner Cindy Jones criticizes both the science behind PlanMaryland and the process used to vet the Plan with Maryland’s citizens.  Here is an excerpt:

The science supporting PlanMaryland employs tactics such as changing the parameters on a chart to produce a favorable result, omitting pertinent items from topical discussions (the ones that do not support the plan’s theses) and using unproven assumptions that are not based upon empirical data.

This explains why elected officials at both the county and state levels have met with months of stonewalling and evasiveness when querying Secretary Hall and his staff about PlanMaryland. Based upon its scientific merits, PlanMaryland is indefensible.

The Department of Planning engaged 3,000 citizens in its outreach efforts, including stakeholder meetings and open houses. This is not authentic consensus building, and not consistent with the workings of a representative form of government.

The threshold for ballot access for a referendum is 50,000 signatures. How can the input of a mere 3,000 people, comprised mostly of special interests, be said to be a legitimate consensus?

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo summarized its concerns regarding the PlanMaryland process and the potential impact on local land use authority in a letter to Governor Martin O’Malley in November.  Legislation will be introduced during the 2012 Session to restrict or clarify the parameters of the Plan and MACo will consider any legislation relating to the Plan.


Debate Continues Over PlanMaryland

December 20, 2011

Debate over PlanMaryland has continued after Governor Martin O’Malley’s acceptance of the Plan on December 19 and there will likely be legislation introduced during the 2012 Session to limit the Plan or add General Assembly oversight.  The Plan adopted by the Governor through Executive Order is essentially a framework and many details have to be filled in before the Plan can be implemented.  Here is a sampling from a variety of media sources:

Read the rest of this entry »


Governor O’Malley Accepts PlanMaryland

December 19, 2011

According to a state house press release this morning, Governor O’Malley has received and accepted the Maryland Department of Planning’s latest version of PlanMaryland.

From the Governor’s press release:

ANNAPOLIS, MD (December 19, 2010) – Governor Martin O’Malley today accepted “PlanMaryland,” the State’s first long-range plan for sustainable growth, from Secretary Richard Eberhart Hall of the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) – achieving a vision first laid out by the General Assembly a half-century ago.

PlanMaryland is an executive policy plan that better coordinates the smart growth efforts and programs of state government. The Governor filed the Plan with the Secretary of State, as required by law. The Governor also filed an Executive Order to provide an overview of the process for implementation of the plan. During the coming year, state agencies will work to identify changes in strategy to achieve the goals of the plan and will work with local governments on delineating areas for future state investment, growth and preservation.

Click here to see the Executive Order.

The final version of the Plan is available online here:

Full Plan Document (pdf file), 108 pages
Executive Summary (pdf file), 16 pages


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