Land Preservation Workgroup To Recommend Local Program Open Space Funding Levels

A Land Preservation Workgroup that was established to evaluate and make recommendations regarding land preservation and easement acquisition programs funded through the State transfer tax, including local side Program Open Space (POS),  held its first meeting on June 23, 2015.  The Workgroup was created through budget committee narrative in the Joint Chairmen’s Report for the FY 2016 operating and capital budgets (pages 221-22). From the committee narrative:

The workgroup should provide a report to the budget committees by December 1, 2015, on an evaluation of the full suite of land preservation and easement acquisition programs – Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Program Open Space – State and Local, Rural Legacy Program, and Maryland Environmental Trust – covering the roles the programs play relative to each other and current statute, and the funding each receives through the transfer tax formula. Topics of study should include the pros and cons of combining some or all of the land preservation and easement acquisition programs, and the possible expansion of State and local revenue generating opportunities from multi-use State working lands. In addition, specific programs should be evaluated as follows: …

Program Open Space – Local – the appropriate percentage of funding to be devoted to acquisition of land before development projects may be funded, the trade-offs associated with increasing/decreasing this percentage, the current status of county fulfillment of the land acquisition requirement, and the status of the requirement to evaluate the Program Open Space – Local allocation formula annually by a committee; …

Following the workgroup-led review, it is the intent of the budget committees that the land preservation and easement acquisition programs be fully funded with the transfer tax at the level recommended in the report.

Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) President and Howard County Parks and Recreation Director John Byrd and Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony are the two county representatives on the Workgroup.  Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton is the chair of the Workgroup.

The first meeting was largely organizational with Workgroup members introducing themselves and receiving overviews of the five programs that the Workgroup will review.  Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League and municipal parks and recreation departments proposed that municipalities should receive a designated share of local POS directly, rather than going through the counties.  MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp countered that unlike municipalities, counties face significant land acquisition and preservation goals and that municipalities already have a dedicated funding source through the Community Parks and Playgrounds program.

The next meeting of the is scheduled for July 21 at the Department of Natural Resources from 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM.  For further information, please contact Les Knapp (lknapp@mdcounties.org) or Andrea Mansfield (amansfield@mdcounties.org).

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