IRR Policy Discussed At 2014 MACo Summer Conference

A panel of land use stakeholders explored the ramifications of the Infill, Redevelopment & Revitalization (IRR) policy currently being considered by the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission to a full room of attendees at the 2014 MACo Summer Conference.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown have asked the Commission to make recommendations on focusing growth and State Smart Growth efforts through IRR.

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Sustainable Growth Commission Chair Jon Laria provided background on the IRR policy.  He prefaced his opening comments by stressing that Maryland counties are extremely diverse and that “one size does not fit all.”  He described the Commission’s deliberation and outreach process regarding the IRR recommendations, noting that the Commission plans to review the final recommendations on August 27 and deliver its final report in early September.  Laria also discussed several of the draft recommendations, including targeted infrastructure funding, streamlining and regulatory reform, and equitable development.  He concluded by stating that IRR is not really “Maryland’s next big land use policy” but rather a reiteration and refinement of Maryland’s current policies.

Talbot County Planner Sandy Coyman presented the MACo and county perspectives on the IRR policy.  He provided a quick overview of Maryland’s Smart Growth goals and then outlined four broad principles that MACo submitted in its comments to the Commission:  (1) protecting local land use decision-making; (2 ) fairness; (3) flexibility; and (4) consultation.  He then focused on several of MACo’s more specific concerns, such as consideration of locally designated growth areas, local choice in tax or financing incentives for IRR, and a rural version for transit oriented development (TOD).

Morris and Ritchie Associates President Frank Hertsch offered a private sector and builder perspective on the IRR policy.  He stated that the IRR policy could help prioritize the use of limited State resources but also raised several potential concerns and challenges.  He stated that the private sector needs to know how the IRR policy will be applied fairly and equitably across the counties but was not sure there was a solution to this concern as some portions of the IRR policy, such as TOD, do not apply to all counties.  Hertsch also expressed concern on the equity of one proposed recommendation that would transfer transportation funding from road projects that “do not support Smart Growth” to IRR projects.  Another concern he raised was getting targeted IRR communities to accept new growth and development (preventing the “not in my backyard” syndrome) but also being sensitive about valid concerns of affected citizens whose lives could be disrupted by IRR projects.

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Former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening and several current cabinet secretaries were on hand to hear the discussion.  Maryland Senator J.B. Jennings moderated the panel.