After passing cleanly from the Senate, a bill concerning local Program Open Space (POS) funding encountered difficulty in the House Environmental Matters Committee. MACo, working in concert with county parks and recreation departments and the Maryland Municipal League, was able to broker a compromise that allowed the bill to be voted out of committee with amendments on April 9.
As introduced, SB 421 would extend the recently expired practice of allowing a local government that has attained its POS land acquisition goals to use all of its POS funds on recreational facilities and projects. The Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of Planning must certify that a county has attained its acreage acquisition goal. The bill also removes a 5-year cap on the period of time during which the POS funds may be used for such projects. Citing the added flexibility the bill would offer for a county that has met its POS land acquisition goals, MACo supported the bill. MACo Testimony
The amendments would require that if a county qualifies to use all of its POS funds on recreational facilities and projects, 25 percent of the funds may only be used for the following purposes: (1) land acquisition; (2) repair or renovation of existing recreational facilities or structures; and (3) capital renewal projects (projects necessary to preserve the physical integrity of a facility or structure or to integrate two different phases of a phased-development project).
The bill will now go to the full floor and must pass the House of Delegates and be acknowledged by the Senate before the end of Session at midnight, April 11. MACo will continue to work to ensure the bill’s passage.