End of Session Wrap Up: Land Use and Environment Legislation

previous post on Conduit Street summarized the status of various land use and environment bills that MACo considered or took a position on.  This post summarizes the final status of those bills.

Septic SystemsHB 177 / SB 160 requires 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 prohibits 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:  Both bills failed.  Instead, the septic system issue will be considered by the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal over the 2011 interim.  The Task Force was created by Governor Martin O’Malley in an executive order on April 18.

Apartment and Condominium RecyclingHB 179 / SB 111 requires 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:  At the request of the Senate, MACo worked with the Department of the Environment (MDE) on joint amendments that would address MACo’s concerns.  MACo complied with the Senate’s request but ultimately both HB 179 and SB 111 failed.

Local Stormwater Utility FeesHB 668 / SB 552 requires 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 requires 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  Status:  HB 668 and SB 552 were withdrawn by their sponsors.  HB 1064 failed.

MALPF Easements and Allowable Residential DevelopmentHB 209 is a departmental bill that clarifies:  (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.  Baltimore and Montgomery Counties also sought amendments to address concerns unique to their counties.  Status:  The Department of Agriculture accepted the MACo amendments but could not reach an agreement with Baltimore and Montgomery Counties.  Because of their concerns, the bill failed.

Critical Area Home InspectionsHB 278 requires 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 bill failed.

Disposal of Computers and Printer Cartridges in LandfillsHB 473 prohibits 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.

Late Fees for Water and Sewer ServiceHB 678 / SB 826 allows 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:  Both HB 678 and SB 826 were amended to only apply to Somerset County and passed.

Sprinkler Requirements for Modular HomesHB 711 / SB 581 allows 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:  Based on fire safety concerns, both HB 711 and SB 581 failed.

Adoption of International Green Construction CodeHB 972 authorizes 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:  The bill passed with clarifying amendments worked out between MACo and the bill’s sponsor.

Local Building Permits and Impact FeesHB 1050 requires local governments 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:  HB 1050 failed.  SB 83 passed.

Waste-To-Energy as Preferred Renewable EnergyHB 1121 / SB 690 moves 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:  SB 690 passed with amendments also adding refuse-derived fuel as a Tier 1 source and clarifying that a waste-to-energy or refuse-derived fuel source must be connected to Maryland’s energy distribution grid in order to be considered a Tier 1 source.  HB 1121 failed.

Prohibited Uses in Rural Legacy AreasHB 1241 prohibits 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 bill failed.

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