MACo Supports the Governor’s Sustainable Communities Act With Amendments

Maryland Association of Counties Associate Director Andrea Mansfield testified in support of SB 285 with amendments before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.  This bill would create “Sustainable Community Areas” within Priority Funding Areas, BRAC Revitalization Areas or Transit Oriented Developments that are eligible to receive funds through the Community Legacy Program and the Neighborhood Business Development Program.  In addition, it would rename the Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program as the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program and would broaden the credit to apply to non-historic structures.

The Administration’s panel, composed of a Governor’s staff person and numerous Departmental Secretaries, said this bill is about aligning funding sources and focusing development in certain areas of our State.  They also stated that the programs and the tax credit will help create jobs in Maryland by providing funds to companies to assist with revitalization efforts.   Not all members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee agreed.  Senator David Brinkley asked why they were taking a targeted credit that was successful when it applied only to historic structures and expanding it to new areas.  He expressed concern that this would dilute the effect of the credit.   Chairman Ulysses Currie asked why the Administration came in with a bill this session to totally revamp the Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program when they worked so hard on the bill last session, although the bill did not pass.

In her testimony, Ms. Mansfield stated that as introduced, MACo expressed concerns with the broad flexibility the Department of Housing and Community Development was being given to designate “Sustainable Communities” and the requirement that local governments needed to resubmit updated applications and plans to re-designate Community Legacy areas as “Sustainable Communities” within 18 months after the effective date of the bill.  MACo also expressed concerns with criteria in the rating system to be used to determine who received the tax credit.  As introduced, the rating system would include a component whereby the  Smart Growth Subcabinet would certify that local jurisdictions implemented regulatory streamlining or other development incentives.

These concerns were addressed through discussions with the Administration.  The amendments offered at the hearing removed the broad criteria for the establishment of a “Sustainable Community”, extended the time frame to submit plans for the designation of a “Sustainable Community” from 18 months to two years, allow a local jurisdiction to use a current or recently updated plan as a basis for an application, and have the local jurisdiction certifying the implementation of regulatory streamlining or other development incentives instead of the Smart Growth Subcabinet.

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