Growth Commission Considers Many Land Use Issues Besides PlanMaryland

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission held its most recent meeting on July 25 in Calvert County.  At the meeting, the Commission reviewed PlanMaryland and made extensive recommendations regarding the Plan’s first draft.  Click here for more information on the Commission’s actions regarding PlanMaryland.  The Commission also received an update from its workgroups on a large number of other growth-related issues.  The next meeting of the Commission is on September 26 at the Public Safety Building in Cambridge, Maryland from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Commission Background

Created by legislation in 2010, the Commission is the long-term successor to the now-defunct Task Force on the Future For Growth and Development in Maryland.  The Commission is an advisory body charged with assessing the progress of State, regional, and local planning agencies towards meeting the State’s 12 land use and planning visions.  The Commission is also charged with studying and making recommendations on a variety of land use and environmental issues.  To better facilitate its work, the Commission has formed 7 workgroups.  The Commission is set to sunset at the end of 2020.

Concentrating Growth Workgroup

The Concentrating Growth Workgroup is considering requirements, including potential legislation, to better concentrate growth in the State and reduce or eliminate sprawl.  Derick Berlage from the Prince George’s County Planning Department is the Chair.  The Workgroup reported that after holding several fact-finding meetings, the Workgroup has created three subcommittees:  (1) a rural growth subcommittee, which will prepare recommendations on how to practice sustainable growth in rural areas; (2) a subcommittee which will examine methods for streamlining the development approval process in targeted growth areas; and (3) a subcommittee that will examine how to make sustainable growth areas more attractive, desirable, and less expensive to develop than non-growth areas.  Subcommittee recommendations will be considered by the Workgroup at its August 1 meeting.

Concentrating Growth Workgroup Report

Housing Workgroup

The Housing Workgroup is tasked with studying ways to encourage people to live nearer to their work and to maintain a stock of affordable housing across the State.  The Chair is Maryland Delegate Stephen Lafferty.   Most of the Workgroup’s efforts have focused on the creation of a statewide housing plan, and how the plan should interact with PlanMaryland.  The elements and policies of the housing plan will be the subject of further meetings.

Housing Workgroup Report

Education Workgroup

The Education Workgroup is examining methods to better educate both elected officials and citizens about the benefits of Smart Growth.  Howard County Council Member Howard Ball is the Chair.  The Workgroup is still seeking additional members and finalizing its mission statement.  However, the Workgroup has completed a survey of which Maryland community colleges and universities offer planning and land use courses.  For community colleges, only the College of Southern Maryland offers a land use tract (certificate in environmental planning).  For the universities, the following offer one or more land use or planning classes or degrees:  Hood, Johns Hopkins,  McDaniel,  Morgan State, Towson, Salisbury, and the University of Maryland at College Park.

Education Workgroup Report

Education Workgroup Community College and University Survey

Funding Workgroup

The Funding Workgroup is studying ways to provide funding and increase revenues dedicated to critical infrastructure needs.  The Chair is Montgomery County Planning Director Rollin Stanley.  The Workgroup has prepared a detailed report on its findings and past activities.  The Workgroup believes that infrastructure projects should be identified and prioritized according to their sustainability and Smart Growth impacts.  Revenue to support infrastructure will need to come from a variety of sources, including tax increment financing, special taxing districts, special benefit assessments, excises taxes and impact taxes/fees, development districts, tax exempt bond financing, and public/private partnerships.  The Workgroup is looking at infrastructure and revitalization success funding success stories from not just Maryland but across the United States.

Funding Workgroup Report

Indicators Workgroup

The Indicators Workgroup is identifying additional growth and land use measures and indicators that can be collected by the State or local governments.  Talbot County Planning Officer Sandy Coyman is the chair.  The Workgroup has identified 15 specific indicators in the areas of housing, the impact of growth on the environment, job/housing balance, the impact of transportation on growth, and the impact of growth on cultural and historic resources.  Currently, two counties (Caroline and Montgomery) and two municipalities (Easton and Hagerstown) are acting as “beta testers” to determine the feasibility of local jurisdictions providing the 15 proposed indicators.  The Workgroup believes that while collecting the indicators will not be onerous, the usefulness of the indicators still needs to be proven.

Indicators Workgroup Report

Watershed Implementation Plan Workgroup

The WIP Workgroup is studying how the State and local governments should implement the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) in order to best meet the federally mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements for the Chesapeake Bay.  Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation chairs the Workgroup.  The WIP Workgroup has created four recommendations:

(1) Endorse the importance of the WIP and its associated offset and  wastewater treatment plant growth allocation strategies in achieving the State’s economic, growth, resource protection, and planning policy;

(2) Direct the WIP Workgroup to serve in an advisory capacity to the interagency Growth Offset Workgroup (this is a State workgroup that is not part of the Commission);

(3) Support the establishment of offset generation capacity and its integration with growth management strategies at the local level; and

(4) Publish a “toolbox” of pollution prevention policies and strategies for local governments.

Under Maryland’s Phase I WIP, all new growth must be offset with equivalent nutrient reduction actions.  Growth outside of Priority Funding Areas (PFAs) will require the most offsets while revitalization projects within PFAs will require the least.  Hence, the offset process is very important to local governments. 

WIP Workgroup Report

PFA Criteria for School Construction

The Commission also received a summary by Public School Construction Program Executive Director David Lever on regulations that will require the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) to consider whether a proposed school project is located within a PFA.  He noted that while the IAC considered a school’s location in the past, there was no formal requirement.  The regulations, which take effect in October and will apply to school projects starting in the Fall.  The regulations will require that new schools and replacement schools that add student capacity be subject to a PFA review.  Renovation projects and additions will be exempt.  The IAC can grant a waiver for school projects located outside of a PFA.  In granting a waiver, the IAC must consider:  (1) the effort by a local jurisdiction in attempting to find a site within a PFA; and (2) whether a proposed school outside of a PFA would serve to correct an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance limit inside of a PFA.

Septics Task Force

Finally, the Commission heard an update by Commission Chair Jon Laria on the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal, which is charged with making recommendations by December 1 on limiting or prohibiting the use of septic systems in development.  Chairman Laria indicated he believed the Task Force would recommend legislation for the 2012 Session.  He also indicated that the Task Force would meet jointly with the Commission on September 12 and October 11.

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