On November 27 the Land Use and Ethics Subcommittee and the Local Government and Bi-County Agencies Subcommittee of the House Environmental Matters Committee jointly met to hear a presentation areas of concern (or “flags”) raised during the code revision process of the new Land Use Article.
Under code revision, provisions in old 1956 Maryland Code format are revised, without substantive change, into a newer and easier-to-read format. The new Land Use Article was adopted during the 2012 Session (HB 1290) and contains local land use provisions contained in the now obsolete Articles 28 and 66B. As part of the process, the review committee responsible for drafting the new article identifies areas of concern that may warrant making substantive changes to the law.
The Land Use Article Review Committee identified 12 significant, 60 moderate, and 58 minor or informational issues that the Review Committee felt warranted consideration by the General Assembly. Examples of areas of significant concern include: (1) restricting local legislators from serving as ex officio members of planning commissions; (2) clarifying the grounds for removing a planning commission member; (3) specifying whether a local legislative body has the power to change a jurisdiction’s comprehensive master plan; and (4) authorizing the appointment of alternate members for planning commissions and boards of appeal.
During the briefing, a Review Committee member noted that the Office of the Attorney General is drafting an opinion tha will address whether or not a local legislative body has the power to alter a comprehensive plan. While not indicative of the final opinion, prior Attorney General statements suggest that a local legislative body lacks the authority to make changes to their jurisdiction’s plan.