Sustainable Growth Commission Considers 2014 Session Issues, Policy Positions

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission met in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County, on November 25 to consider 2014 Session issues, take policy positions for the Session, and receive updates on various land use and environmental issues.  This post summarizes some of the Commission discussions that are particularly relevant to county governments.

St. Mary’s County Commission President Francis (Jack) Russell and Leonardtown Mayor Daniel Burris made opening remarks and planners from both jurisdictions highlighted their comprehensive planning and zoning efforts.  Commission Chair Jon Laria praised the County for its land use planning.

2014 Session Issues

Representatives from several State agencies discussed key issues for the upcoming 2014 Session.  The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) anticipates legislation on the controversial 2012 stormwater fee legislation but does not expect the fee to be repealed or delayed.  MDE also believes there may be legislation related to its forthcoming Accounting for Growth (AFG) Policy, which will require new development to offset its nitrogen and potentially its phosphorus runoff.  MDE will be introducing legislation that would allow monies from the Bay Restoration Fund septic system account to be used to hook-up communities of failing septic systems located outside of Priority Funding Areas to wastewater treatment plants, provided adequate sprawl protections are in place.  This is also a MACo 2014 legislative initiative and MACo hopes to partner with MDE on the legislation.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be dealing with the looming bankruptcy of the federal Highway Transportation Trust Fund in 2015.  MDOT did not make any statements regarding local Highway User Revenue restoration.  The Department of Housing and Community Development will be introducing legislation that will remove the ability of a local government to reject affordable and low-income housing projects.  Finally, the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) will be seeking the reauthorization of the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit and will be working closely with MDE on the proposed Bay Restoration Fund legislation.

Commission Recommendations

The Commission voted to support two policy positions:  (1) the renewal of the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit; and (2) a recommendation to increase funding for “Core Smart Growth Funding Programs” by $5 million over the FY 2014 appropriation level of $35 million.  “Core” funding programs include nine programs such as the Community Investment Tax Credit, Community Legacy, Sustainable Communities Tax Credit, Maryland Heritage Area Grants, and Community Parks and Playgrounds.  For a summary of core program funding levels and descriptions, click here.

Issue Updates and Workgroup Status Reports

The Commission also received updates on several policy issues including AFG, Charles County’s proposed comprehensive plan changes, the Smart Growth Investment Fund, Tax Increment Financing Models and Guidelines, and the 2013 PlanMaryland Progress Report.  The Commission also received written reports from its various workgroups.  Many of the referenced reports and documents can be found in the Commission’s combined materials packet:

Combined Commission Materials for Nov 25 2013

Smart, Green, and Growing Branding

The Maryland Department of Planning also presented a powerpoint on how Maryland is highlighting its overall land use policies under the State’s “Smart, Green, and Growing” brand.

Smart, Green and Growing Presentation

If you have any questions or want further information regarding a particular issue discussed by the Commission, please contact MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

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