Session Update: Land Use and Environment Legislation

This post summarizes the status of various land use and environmental bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.

Septic SystemsHB 177 / SB 160 would require that any new septic systems installed in the State within the Chesapeake or Atlantic Coastal Bay watersheds must use nitrogen removal technology.  HB 1107SB 846 would prohibit the construction of major subdivisions (5 or more units) on septic systems, require new minor subdivisions (less than 5 units) on septics to use nitrogen removal technology, and limit the ability to further subdivide or re-subdivide land.  MACo did not take a position on HB 177/SB 160 and opposed HB 1107/SB 846.  Status:  The General Assembly appears unlikely to take action on either bill.  Instead, the bills will be considered by a summer study workgroup that will also consider local stormwater management fees and the Bay Restoration Fee.  It is expected that the workgroup’s recommendations will be introduced as legislation either later this year in a special session or during the 2012 session. MACo Testimony on HB 1107/SB 846

Apartment and Condominium RecyclingHB 179 / SB 111 would require apartment or condominium complexes with 10 or more units to provide recycling for their residents by October 1, 2015.  County governments must incorporate apartment and condominium recycling into their recycling plans and local governments would likely be the primary party responsible for enforcement.  Citing enforcement costs, MACo opposed the bill as an unfunded mandate.  Status:  The Senate requested MACo offer amendments that would enable MACo to drop its opposition.  Working with the Department of the Environment (MDE), MACo and MDE submitted joint amendments that would clarify local enforcement duties and also preserve the ability of local governments to adopt their own apartment and condominium recycling provisions.  After considering the amendments, the Senate gave SB 111 an unfavorable report.  HB 179 passed the House with slightly different amendments but was also given an unfavorable report in the Senate. MACo Testimony

Local Stormwater Utility FeesHB 668 / SB 552 would require that if a local government enacts a stormwater utility fee, any property owned by the State or a unit of State government that is located within the local government’s boundaries be subject to the local fee.  HB 1064 would require local governments to adopt a stormwater utility fee, with one rate for residential properties and a higher rate for commercial properties based on the amount of their impervious surface.  MACo supported HB 668/SB 552 and did not take a position on HB 1064 because of the likelihood of a summer study.  Status:  HB 668 and SB 552 have both been withdrawn by their sponsors.  No action has been taken on HB 1064.  Both bills will be considered over the interim by a summer study workgroup that will also consider septic system issues and the Bay Restoration Fee.

MACo Testimony on HB 668/SB 552

MALPF Easements and Allowable Residential DevelopmentHB 209 is a departmental bill that would clarify:  (1)  the criteria for qualifying for a Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation (MALPF) easement;  (2) restricted uses of land subject to an easement; (3) the use of corrective easements; and (4) the construction of a new tenant house or the conversion of an existing dwelling and the construction of a replacement building.  The bill also establishes the right of a landowner to reserve up to three residential lots, subject to certain criteria.  MACo supported the bill with amendments to ensure compatibility with local requirements for tenant houses, critical area restrictions, and lot size requirements for septic systems.  Status:  MACo worked with the Department of Agriculture and the bill passed the House with the MACo amendments.  However, Baltimore and Montgomery Counties are also seeking amendments to address concerns unique to their counties and bill is still being debated by the Senate. MACo Testimony

Critical Area Home InspectionsHB 278 would require a local government, at the request of a prospective buyer, to conduct an inspection of a home located in a critical area to determine if there are any critical area violations.  The home buyer would not be liable for any discovered or undiscovered violations existing at the time of the inspection.    Citing the time and costs of conducting the inspections, as well as the ability of private home inspectors to conduct such inspections, MACo opposed the bill.  Status:  The House gave HB 278 an unfavorable report. MACo Testimony

Disposal of Computers and Printer Cartridges in LandfillsHB 473 would have prohibited the disposal of computers, computer monitors, and printer ink cartridges in landfills or incinerators.  MACo opposed the bill, noting that while MACo has been supportive of prior recycling efforts, this bill was unenforceable and created significant and potentially costly implementation issues for county governments.  Status:  The bill was withdrawn by its sponsor for further work over the interim. MACo Testimony

Late Fees for Water and Sewer ServiceHB 678 / SB 826 would allow sanitary districts that do not already have the authority to collect late fees and charge interest on unpaid bills.  Citing the inequality between sanitary districts, with some already able to collect fees and charge interest, MACo supported the bill.  Status:  The House has taken no action on HB 678.  The Senate passed SB 826 but amended it to apply only to Somerset County.  The House has heard SB 826 but taken no further action. MACo Testimony

Sprinkler Requirements for Modular HomesHB 711 / SB 581 would allow a local government to opt-out of sprinkler system requirements for modular homes.  MACo supported the bill, citing similar authority of local governments to opt-out stick-frame homes.  Status:  Citing fire safety concerns, both the House and Senate gave their respective bill an unfavorable report. MACo Testimony

Adoption of International Green Construction CodeHB 972 would authorize the Department of Housing and Community Development and local governments to adopt the International Green Construction Code.  MACo did not take a position on the bill but was concerned that amendments added by the House may have unintentionally limited the ability of local governments to voluntarily adopt the Code.  Status:  MACo worked with the bill’s sponsor and clarifying amendments were introduced in the Senate to address the issue.  The Senate has passed the bill with the MACo amendments.

Local Building Permits and Impact FeesHB 1050 would require local government to toll (freeze) the running period of their building permits and construction approvals issued since 2008 until the beginning of 2013.  SB 83 would remove a 2011 sunset provision that applies to the authority of a local government to modify building permit or impact fees for the construction of lower-income housing.  MACo opposed HB 1050, noting that local governments already possessed the authority to toll their permits and cited significant implementation issues, and supported SB 83.  Status:  The House passed HB 1050 and the Senate has heard the bill but not taken any action.  MACo is working to keep the bill contained in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.  SB 83 has passed both houses. MACo Testimony on HB 1050 and MACo Testimony on SB 83

Waste-To-Energy as Preferred Renewable EnergyHB 1121 / SB 690 would move waste-to-energy from a Tier 2 source to a Tier 1 source (a more favorable position) within the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.  MACo supported the bill, noting that it would provide an additional option in the State’s efforts to use renewable energy sources and potentially benefit those counties that run waste-to-energy facilities.  Status:  The House amended HB 1121 to include other power sources, including refuse-derived fuel and certain hydroelectric power plants, and the bill is waiting for a final vote by the House.  SB 690 passed the Senate with amendments stating the better classification only applies if the facility is hooked up to Maryland’s energy grid.  The House has yet to take action on that bill. MACo Testimony

Prohibited Uses in Rural Legacy AreasHB 1241 would have prohibited a variety of uses in a Rural Legacy Area if they exceed 5 acres, including shopping centers, power plants or substations, and other non-agricultural uses.  MACo opposed the bill, arguing that it was overly broad and that between local zoning, existing Rural Legacy restrictions, and the Public Service Commission process, there are already adequate protections in place.  Status:  The House has taken no action on HB 1241. MACo Testimony

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