PlanMaryland, MdProperty View Discussed at MDP’s Senate Budget Hearing

The Public Safety, Transportation, and Environment Subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held the budget hearing for the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) on January 30.  In its budget analysis, the Department of Legislative Services identified three key issues:  (1) the implementation of PlanMaryland; (2) challenges in measuring Heritage Area effectiveness; and (3) concerns over the self-sufficiency of the State’s land information map, MdProperty View.

From the DLS budget analysis:

PlanMaryland Sees Greater State Cooperation but Limited Local Buy-in: As of October 2013, MDP reports that the Smart Growth Subcabinet formally endorsed the Planning Areas for two municipalities, and that around a dozen or more local government applications were submitted and are under review by the subcabinet agencies. Requirements of other smart growth legislation and the voluntary nature of the Planning Areas process help to explain the limited number of Planning Areas submitted. The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) recommends that MDP comment on whether and how PlanMaryland and its Planning Areas will be institutionalized before the end of the current Administration; how many State agency implementation plans have been finalized; how many State agency implementation plans have not been finalized and why; what incentives could be used to increase the voluntary submission of Planning Areas; and whether there is any funding in the fiscal 2015 operating and capital budgets supporting the implementation of PlanMaryland.

Heritage Areas Measurement Challenges: A 2012 analysis conducted by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority found that target investment zones have not generated the level of activity anticipated. In addition, the target investment zones, based on how the statute is written, have constrained eligibility for capital grants. In addition, a strategic plan states that the process of reviewing impacts has been in the works throughout the history of the Heritage Areas Program but has never been resolved. DLS recommends that MDP comment on suitable metrics for determining the effectiveness of individual heritage areas and the overall Heritage Areas Program. DLS also recommends that MDP comment on why attendance is not MDP’s performance measurement focus and what the attendance trends in heritage areas have been. Finally, DLS recommends that MDP comment on whether there is some benefit to targeting more funding to particular capital projects as opposed to spreading the funding among so many management and noncapital grants.

MdProperty View Falls Short of Self-sufficiency: MdProperty View revenues are insufficient to cover costs, and neither State agencies nor the public will be charged fees in the future. DLS recommends that MDP comment on how MdProperty View will be funded, the relationship between MdProperty View and iMAp – the State’s information map, and the costs and benefits of moving from a fee-for-service to free-of-charge program model in terms of the trade off between public access and funding self-sufficiency.

DLS 2014 Operating Budget Analysis for MDP

Secretary of Planning Richard Hall responded to the PlanMaryland issue, stating that “PlanMaryland is really a tool or strategy or game plan for [State agencies].”  He discussed the annual progress reports that state agencies must submit on their PlanMaryland implementation efforts.

Regarding Heritage Areas, Deputy Secretary Amanda Conn discussed the challenges in separating “heritage” tourism from regular tourism, noting that the two are often intertwined.  Hall also discussed MdProperty View, noting that while MDP does charge the private sector for data layer information, it is following the increasingly standard practice of sharing the data with other state agencies and local governments.  He was hopeful of getting some general funds to make the data more accessible and useful to the general public.