This article is the first in a periodic series that will discuss the Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR) Policy that is being studied and developed by the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. This part will provide an overview of the IRR Policy, discuss the Commission’s timetable and workplan, and summarize MACo’s initial comments and position.
On this important emerging issue, MACo and member counties are engaging directly – participating as members of the Commission’s efforts, opening dialog with policy leaders and MACo leaderhip, and featuring the topic during the upcoming summer conference for the wider county and stakeholder audience.
What is IRR?
There are many definitional variations of infill, redevelopment, and revitalization and they can overlap functionally. For the purpose of understanding the IRR Policy, the following basic definitions should serve:
“Infill” typically refers to development on open land that is part of an urbanized land area. The development usually occurs on land that has been zoned for development but was left vacant as the area around it was built out.
“Redevelopment” typically means converting an existing built property into another use. For instance, a large vacant commercial or industrial site could be converted into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex.
“Revitalization” typically means the application of infill or redevelopment to communities to combat urban blight or depressed economic conditions. It can be used to rejuvenate failing communities or strengthen stable but at-risk communities.
Why is the Commission working on an IRR Policy?
Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown sent a letter to Commission on January 22, 2014, requesting that the Commission make recommendations ““to accelerate Maryland’s infill, redevelopment, and revitalization efforts.” The letter specifically asked the Commission to review and address the following in its recommendations:
- Making the best use of existing redevelopment and revitalization programs;
- Implementing Transit Oriented Development in ways that maximize community and economic development benefits;
- Funding and financing recommendations, making use of the recent Smart Growth Investment Task Force recommendations;
- Streamlining and other regulatory relief;
- Adequacy of existing plans such as PlanMaryland to address these issues;
- Educational and training tools;
- Tools for quality community design elements in redevelopment and infill projects; and
- The role of the Smart Growth Subcabinet and its member agencies in implementing these recommendations.
Why should counties care about the IRR Policy?
A properly developed IRR Policy will further Smart Growth goals by focusing growth and assisting in the creation of needed infrastructure in locally designated growth areas. However, a poorly developed IRR Policy could undermine local land use decision-making, create inequities amongst different regions of the state, and fail to acknowledge unique local needs and issues.
What are the key components of the IRR Policy?
The interim/working draft of the potential recommendations is continuing to change and evolve. As the Commission continues its deliberations, it is possible for recommendations to be added, deleted or modified. The information provided here is derived from the Commission’s June 25, 2014 Working Draft of Potential Recommendations.
The 114 recommendations are broken down into eight broad subject areas:
- General Issues: This section includes recommendations that do not fall into the remaining subject areas. Examples of recommendations in this section include the targeting of State investments to areas that have worked with the State to develop coordinated economic development and community revitalization strategies, particularly those areas designated as Sustainable Communities.
- Economic Issues: This section focuses on infrastructure financing, project financing, and tax structures, such as establishing tax increment financing districts for state revenues which would then be used to fund IRR or reducing transportation projects that do not support Smart Growth and using the cost savings for IRR.
- Community Design: This section includes recommendations related to addressing physical and design challenges for IRR projects, including handling increased densities and walkability and access.
- Market Dynamics: This section covers recommendations designed to foster a positive market for IRR projects, such as aligning State growth-related resources (roads, water and sewer facilities, schools, business and economic development, etc.) to encourage IRR projects, particularly in designated Sustainable Communities.
- Equitable Development: This section contains recommendations focusing on addressing blight, spurring job creation, maintaining affordable housing, creating access to healthy food, and ensuring public safety and quality public education for IRR projects.
- Programs and Policies: This section covers recommendations on changing State and local programs and regulations to incentivize IRR projects, including a more consistent and expedited permitting process, reducing the effect of adequate public facilities ordinances within Priority Funding Areas, and the creation of a “mechanism to mediate [public input] disputes and evaluate the ‘greater good’ from the PlanMaryland perspective.”
- Education: This section looks at recommendations designed to educate elected officials and the public about the benefits of IRR projects and provide IRR technical assistance to both local governments and developers.
- Transit-Oriented Development: The final section focuses on recommendations related to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD), which is regarded as a specific type of IRR. Recommendations in this section include the creation of a dedicated TOD funding source, implementation of a regional sales tax for transit projects, creation of mandatory TOD standards (differing by jurisdiction) that all parties must follow, and recognition that TOD needs a different model for more rural areas.
The Governor’s letter requested that the Commission submit its recommendations by August 31, 2014. To date the Commission has instructed Maryland Department of Planning staff to interview selected stakeholders, look at several communities as “case studies,” and catalog best practices and prior recommendations related to IRR. The Commission has also held several public forums or stakeholder meetings on the issue, with the latest being on June 25. The draft recommendations will be considered by a coordinating committee, steering committee, and the Smart Growth Subcabinet between now and mid-July.
The Commission will review the revised draft recommendations at its July 28 meeting and sign off on the final report at a special meeting in mid-August.
How is MACo engaging on the issue?
MACo has formed a workgroup of interested county stakeholders that have reviewed the initial set of proposed recommendations and will be submitting formal written comments to the Commission shortly. The comments will include four “core” positions that MACo believes should guide the overall approach and discussion related to IRR Policy and specific responses certain draft recommendations. The four core positions include the following:
- Local Land Use Decision Making: MACo has long advocated that land use decisions should be primarily made at the local government level. Local governments are most aware of the needs and unique challenges faced by their constituents. As such, the IRR Policy should be designed to work collaboratively with local government land use plans and locally designated IRR areas rather than as a top-down State mandate.
- Fairness: It is critical that the IRR Policy treat all local jurisdictions fairly – including between counties and municipalities, urban and rural areas, and different geographic regions of the state (such as Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore). If the Policy appears to favor one set of participants at the expense of others, it will limit its acceptance and successful implementation.
- Flexibility: The IRR Policy must provide flexibility so that jurisdictions are able to address local needs and issues. Different areas of the state are faced with different land use and infrastructure challenges and the Policy will not be effective if it embodies a “one size fits all” approach.
- Consultation: As the Commission continues its deliberations, it is important that all local jurisdictions be afforded an opportunity to provide input. MACo and the county planners believe that a broad mix of urban and rural county planners should be interviewed and considered as panelists at the various public forums being held by the Commission. MACo is concerned that many of the public outreach events to date have featured very few rural county planners.
Additionally, Commission Chair Jon Laria and Harford County Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti, MACo’s elected official representative on the Commission, will be discussing the issue with MACo’s Board of Directors on July 10. MACo will also be featuring an IRR Policy panel on August 15 (click here for further panel and registration information).
MACo will continue to remain engaged throughout the process, providing direct input at Commission meetings and the various public forums.
How can I get engaged?
If you wish to participate on the MACo IRR Workgroup or discuss how you can offer other contributions, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register for MACo’s summer conference, where IRR policy will be a featured workshop among many other “Ideas and Innovations” for county leaders.
You may also submit comments to the Commission by completing this online survey. The survey will remain live through June 30.