2013 End of Session Wrap Up: Planning & Zoning Legislation

This post summarizes the status of various planning and zoning bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.

10-Year Comprehensive Planning CycleHB 409 / SB 443 and SB 671 would  move a local government’s comprehensive planning and zoning cycle from a 6-year cycle to a 10-year cycle and, to the extent practicable, make the cycle coincide with the release of data from the United States decennial census. The transition schedule would be set by a workgroup formed by the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP), MACo, and the Maryland Municipal League.  The bills would also require a “check-up” at the five-year point of a comprehensive plan’s adoption – a local planning commission would have to include a narrative of the implementation status of the comprehensive plan as part of the annual report that local governments must submit to MDP.  As the bills were part of MACo’s 2013 Legislative Initiative package, MACo supported the bills.

FINAL STATUS:  SB 443 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor.  The General Assembly passed HB 409 and SB 671 with identical amendments that provided more detail on the contents of the 5-year check up report and stated that if a local government adopts a growth tier under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, the tier must be integrated into the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan when the plan would be next reviewed under the jurisdiction’s current 6-year cycle.  The amendments were the result of consensus discussions between MACo, MDP, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the home builders and were supported by MACo.

MACo HB 409 Testimony

Local Building Standards for WindHB 769 / SB 750 would prohibit a local jurisdiction from adopting amendments to the Maryland Building Performance Standards that would weaken the wind design and wind-borne debris provisions contained in the Standards.  MACo opposed the bill, arguing that local jurisdictions should be trusted to make proper safety decisions on behalf of their citizens and that the bill was continuing evidence of a pattern to remove a local jurisdiction’s traditional authority to modify the Standards to suit local conditions and needs.

FINAL STATUS:  The General Assembly passed both bills without amendment. 

MACo HB 769 Testimony

Land Use Article Corrections and Clarifications:  As introduced, HB 1257 would make numerous clarifications and several significant substantive changes to the re-codified Land Use Article that was adopted in 2012 as part of the State’s code revision process.  During the course of the code revision process, the committee that is charged with rewriting and reformatting the code also makes a series of suggested corrections and clarifications, as well as more significant and substantive changes (known as “flags”). HB 1257 is a compilation of these corrections and flags. MACo supported the bill with amendments that would allow an elected official to continue serve as an ex officio member on a planning commission and not add a new fisheries element in the comprehensive plan for charter counties.

FINAL STATUS:  The General Assembly passed HB 1257 with amendments addressing MACo’s two concerns.  A local elected official may continue to serve as an ex officio member of a planning commission but must recuse themselves from voting when they have a conflict of interest.  A county that was previously required to do a fisheries element in its comprehensive plan must continue to do the element even if the county changes its form of government but no additional counties are required to do the element. 

MACo HB 1257 Testimony

Nuisance Abatement for Blighted Property:  As introduced, SB 28 would give local governments an additional tool to address residential property owners who allow their property to become blighted and who refuse to address valid local government livability and building code concerns. The bill would require an owner of a blighted property to submit a remediation plan to a local government and comply with its requirements or else the local government may declare the property a nuisance and order abatement.  The order must either abate the nuisance or sell the property within a specified time or face a fine equal to three times that amount of the local property tax imposed on the property.  MACo raised numerous process concerns about the bill as introduced and offered amendments to make the bill acceptable.

 FINAL STATUS:  The Senate passed the bill with the proposed MACo amendments.  The House Environmental Matters Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report.

MACo SB 28 Testimony

Community Legacy Program Application RequirementsSB 62 is a Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) bill that would allow a local jurisdiction to approve an application for a sustainable community plan or community legacy project by either adopting a resolution or by delivering a letter to DHCD. The letter would need to be from an authorized designee of the local jurisdiction.  Under current law, a local jurisdiction may only approve a sustainable community plan or community legacy project through adopting a resolution.  MACo supported the bill as it allows additional flexibility and a less cumbersome process for a local government to express support for a plan or project.

FINAL STATUS:  The General Assembly passed SB 62 without amendment.

MACo SB 62 Testimony