The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission met on September 24 in the City of Laurel and received updates on a variety of land use and planning initiatives that are underway. The Committee received updates from its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and Concentrating Growth Workgroups, briefly discussed the State’s proposed growth offset policy, and approved a protocols for approving a Growth Tier IV exemption under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (SB 236). The Commission also received updates on PlanMaryland and the status of the Commission’s new Smart Growth awards program.
APFO WORKGROUP UPDATE
The recently formed APFO Workgroup updated the Commission on its work and outlined a proposed course of research. The Workgroup noted that 39 Maryland jurisdictions have APFO ordinances (mainly those with a high population) and only 5 of those jurisdictions are currently experiencing development restrictions as a result of the APFOs. Maryland Delegate and Commission Member Steve Lafferty expressed concern about the lack of uniformity in APFOs and Commission Member Gerrit Knaap suggested that the Workgroup should examine the APFO policies of other states, such as Florida. Commission Chair Jon Laria encouraged the Workgroup to look more broadly at the role of APFOs on growth and development in Maryland.
CONCENTRATING GROWTH WORKGROUP UPDATE (FINANCING AND SMART GROWTH REPORT CARD)
The Concentrating Growth Workgroup provided updates on the actions of several of its committees. The Finance Committee submitted a report and recommendations concerning financing and infrastructure funding for sustainable communities. The report contained four primary recommendations:
- Establish a renewable funding mechanism to increase State funding fo Smart Growth programs, with aim of raising $35 million annually
- Enhance legislative authority for Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
- Enhance local infrastructure financing in older communities via the Local Government Infrastructure Finance (LGIF) Program or a more formal infrastructure bank
- Strengthen nonprofit community investors such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), through a State capacity building program
The report also contained a separate recommendation about using a portion of Maryland’s real estate transfer tax as a funding source for sustainable communities. The transfer tax is currently used to fund Program Open Space and agricultural preservation by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
After some debate, the Commission endorsed the four primary recommendations of the report but rejected the recommendation concerning the transfer tax. The Commission anticipates legislation regarding the TIF recommendation for the 2013 Session.
The “Report Card” Committee presented it proposal regarding the creation of a Smart Growth Report Card. The report card will use available data to grade the progress of State and possibly local governments in four key areas:
- Focusing 90% of new dwelling units in Priority Funding Areas from 2010 to 2030 (PlanMaryland Benchmark)
- Saving 3000,000 acres from being converted to development by 2030 (PlanMaryland Benchmark)
- Reducing Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 and restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay (PlanMaryland Benchmark)
- Fostering economic development.
Commission members raised several concerns over the proposed categories and data points but Chairman Laria stressed the need to establish a simple report that can be understood by ordinary citizens. The Commission will move forward with the report card but continue to refine it.
GROWTH OFFSET POLICY
The Commission also briefly discussed the State’s proposed growth offset policy which is required under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and SB 236. The Commission will hold a meeting on November 8 to more fully consider the proposal.
TIER IV EXEMPTION PROTOCOL
The Commission adopted a series of proposed protocols for granting a Growth Tier IV exemption under SB 236. Under SB 236, if a county may request and be granted a Tier IV exemption if the county’s cumulative Tier IV area results in an overall actual yield of not more than one dwelling unit per 20 acres. A county with a Tier IV exemption may continue to approve major subdivisions on septic systems within its Tier IV area.
Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) representative Joe Tassone indicated that besides the strict quantitative (numerical measurement), MDP will also review qualitative factors when making a decision whether to grant a Tier IV exemption, such as “local Priority Preservation elements, other comprehensive plan elements, and other local policies and programs likely to affect future land use in Tier IV areas.”
The Commission also received updates on its new Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards program and MDP’s recently released PlanMaryland Progress Report. The next scheduled meeting of the Commission will be on November 8 from 2:45 PM – 4:30 PM at the Maryland Department of Planning (301 West Preston Street, Suite 1101, Baltimore, Maryland 21201) to review and make recommendations on the State’s proposed growth offset policy.