Panel Highlights County Planning Requirements at #MACoCon

A panel of local and state land use practitioners highlighted some of the different kinds of land use plans – both large scale and project specific – that counties are responsible for creating or integrating into their own plans at the 2015 MACo Summer Conference.

Caroline County Planning and Codes Director Katheleen Freeman discussed comprehensive master plan requirements.  She explained the 10-year planning cycle, Maryland’s 12 land use “visions” which drive local comprehensive plans, and required and optional plan elements.  Freeman stressed that the adoption process typically takes several years from when a planning commission begins to develop or review a plan and the plan is ultimately adopted by the local government’s legislative body.  The comprehensive plan then guides subsequent zoning ordinances; watershed plans; solid waste management plans; water and sewer plans; and land preservation, parks and recreation plans.

Washington County Environmental Management Director Julie Pippel explained a county’s water and sewer plan, which follows the comprehensive plan and must ensure ample public water supply and wastewater processing.  After discussing the required chapters and maps that must be included in the plan, she detailed the development and submission process, which can take months or years.  The draft plan must be submitted to the Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE), Natural Resources, and Planning for comments.  Ultimately, the plan must be approved by MDE.  Pippel urged counties to meet with MDE early in the process and include every potential water project in the plan to avoid triggering an amendment process.

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks Master Planner Brooke Farquhar discussed the land preservation, parks, and recreation plan (LPPRP) that covers a county’s parks, recreational facilities, natural resource land conservation, and agricultural land preservation.  The LPPRP is a prerequisite for receiving local-side Program Open Space funding from the State.  In addition to helping county governments evaluate and manage their recreation and land preservation programs, Farquhar noted that LPPRPs form the foundation of the State’s Land Preservation and Recreation Plan, which is required every 5 years for the State to receive federal funding under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.  After walking through how Montgomery County approaches and uses its LPPRP, she discussed several new LPPRP requirements that will take effect in 2017.

Finally, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Program Manager Marian Honeczy discussed forest conservation requirements in local comprehensive plans and broader implications of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act.  She highlighted a 2013 mandate requiring additional information on forest cover and other forestry data in local comprehensive plans.  She also discussed how county projects much comply with either the Maryland Forest Conservation Act or with an equivalent county ordinance.  Honeczy noted that the Act now has a goal of maintaining the current statewide 40% forest canopy but other laws or policies push for increasing tree plantings, including the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan.

Maryland Senator Stephen Hershey, Jr., moderated the panel.


(Senator Hershey (standing) introduces the panelists (seated, from left to right) Farquhar, Pippel, Freeman, and Honeczy)