MACo: Expand Neighborhood Program, But Retain Local Approval

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, testified to the House Environmental and Transportation Committee in support with amendments of HB 326 on February 9, 2016.

This bill would expand the areas in which the Neighborhood Business Development Program in the Department of Housing and Community Development is authorized to provide financial assistance. Local governments benefit from these changes either directly as eligible applicants, or indirectly through assistance to businesses and community development organizations within targeted locally designated communities.

While MACo appreciates the bolstered resources for local development, counties are concerned with provisions of the bill that would strip local governments of their authority to approve or disapprove of projects occurring within their communities.

From the MACo tesitmony,

Currently, a project must receive approval from the local governing body in the form of a resolution or letter before the project may proceed; this bill would remove that authority and instead establish a “notice with opportunity to comment” process. MACo believes the express local government approval authority should stay intact.

These approvals are necessary safeguards. They ensure that before a project comes to fruition it has the full support of the local government and conforms to the plans the governing body has established for the community.

The local government should have an affirmative and binding say over local development. The ability to simply provide comment is not sufficient and removes a long-standing authority.

Many local governments benefit from these programs and the investment and revitalization they provide to their communities. Counties support the bill as it intends to improve these programs, but request that the local government’s approval authority be preserved.

For more on MACo 2016 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.