2016 End of Session Wrap Up: Planning & Zoning

This post summarizes the status of various planning and zoning bills MACo took a position on for the 2016 Regular Session.

Standing and Judicial Review of Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Actions: HB 243 / SB 166 alters the law with respect to standing for land use actions, including a comprehensive planning or rezoning actions. The bill specifies that the following persons may request circuit court judicial review of such actions: (1) a person aggrieved by the action; (2) a taxpayer; or (3) an officer or a unit of the local jurisdiction.

The bill specifies the following people have standing to bring and maintain such an action:

  • A person who owns property located within 1,000 feet of the border of a property that has a change in zoning or use through the land use action and is presumptively aggrieved; and
  • A person who: (1) owns property located more than 1,000 feet from the border of a property that has a change of zoning or use through the land use action; and (2) alleges and proves that the change is likely to cause that person a harm that differs in kind or degree from any harm to the public at large.

The bill was brought in response to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals holding, Anne Arundel County, Maryland v. Steve Bell (filed April 21, 2015).

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that the bill would expand standing requirements for both comprehensive zoning and comprehensive planning actions, create unwarranted litigation, and imperil Smart Growth-friendly development projects. MACo stated that the Bell case correctly held that “taxpayer standing” requirements should apply to primarily legislative land use actions (such as comprehensive zoning), while “property owner standing” requirements should apply to administrative, executive, or quasi-judicial land use actions (such as piecemeal rezonings, special exceptions, and non-conforming uses).

FINAL STATUS: HB 243 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 166 but took no further action. 

MACo HB 243 Testimony

MACo SB 166 Testimony

MDP Approval of Scenic Byway Development Projects: HB 913 / SB 366 requires a person to apply to the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) for a permit if the person undertakes a development project that: (1) involves the construction of a total of 50 or more parking spaces, including either all new spaces or when combined with existing spaces on the site; and (2) is located within one-half mile of a scenic byway. In reviewing the permit application, MDP must consider: (1) the impact the development project will have on the surrounding community; (2) any comments received during the public comment period; (3) any other factors MDP considers necessary.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill on the grounds it would usurp local land use decision-making authority and increase project review time and costs.

FINAL STATUS: HB 913 and SB 366 were withdrawn by their respective sponsors.

MACo SB 366 Testimony

County Transportation APFOs & State Highway Intersections: HB 442 / SB 303 provides that a county transportation adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO) that limits development based on a specified level of traffic congestion and is in effect by January 1, 2016, may not be amended or repealed by the county. Additionally, the State Highway Administration shall make any determination on the level of traffic congestion at a State highway intersection for purposes of determining whether development is allowed under a transportation APFO.

MACo Position: MACo opposed the bill, arguing that it would usurp local land use decision-making authority and unnecessarily restrict county governments from updating their transportation APFOs to reflect changing needs.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 442 an unfavorable report. SB 303 was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor.

MACo HB 442 Testimony

Required Transit Adequacy Study for Development Projects: SB 779 mandates that a local jurisdiction shall require a transit adequacy study for a proposed development project if the jurisdiction also requires that a traffic adequacy study be prepared for the project.

MACo Position: MACo opposed SB 779, noting that the bill would: (1) impose “one size fits all” transit adequacy study requirement to jurisdictions where it may not be relevant; and (2) increase costs for both project developers (who must pay to prepare the studies) and local governments (who must bear the costs to review the studies or hire outside experts to review the studies).

FINAL STATUS: The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 779 but took no further action on the bill.

MACo SB 779 Testimony

Maryland Building Performance Standards – Adoption, Modification, and Enforcement Dates: HB 57 increases the time the Department of Housing and Community Development has to adopt or modify the International Building Code (IBC) and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the Maryland Building Performance Standards from 12 months to 18 months after a new version of the IBC and IECC is released. The bill also increases the time a local jurisdiction has to implement and begin enforcing new or modified versions of the Standards from 6 months to 12 months.

MACo Position: MACo supported the legislation, citing the increased review and training time local jurisdictions have needed as recent versions of the IBC have included major changes to building code requirements and the inclusion of the IECC has further increased the breadth and complexity of Maryland’s building code.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 57.

MACo HB 57 Testimony

Municipal Code Enforcement Officials Serving Citations for County Law Violations: HB 277 provides that any official authorized by the legislative body of a municipality to act as an enforcement officer may serve a citation on behalf of the county in which the municipality is located for violations of: (1) any county law, ordinance, or resolution for which a civil fine or penalty may be imposed; and (2) within the municipality or up to a half mile outside the municipal limits. The enforcement officer shall immediately provide a copy of the citation to the governing body of the county. The county may prosecute such a citation in the same manner as a county-issued citation.

MACo Position: MACo supported HB 277 with amendments clarifying that a county and municipality must enter into a mutual agreement before a municipal enforcement officer may serve citations for violations of county laws or ordinances. The agreement must specify the violations the municipal officer may issue a citation for and the geographic range of the officer’s authority (solely within the municipality or up to a one-half mile radius outside the municipal limits but within the county). The enforcement officer must be knowledgeable and trained in the appropriate county enforcement practices.

FINAL STATUS: The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 277 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 277 Testimony

State Plumbing Code: HB 711 / SB 643 requires the State Board of Plumbing to adopt as the State Plumbing Code the International Plumbing Code and the International Fuel Gas Code and adopt any subsequent version of those codes within 18 months after they are issued by the International Code Council. The bill also provides the Board may adopt regulations to amend limited sections of the State Plumbing Code if the plumbing industry presents information to the Board regarding better and safer plumbing materials and installation practices.

HB 1471 / SB 831 requires the Board to adopt the National Standard Plumbing Code as the State Plumbing Code. The bill also requires municipalities to enforce the State Plumbing Code and limits a county or municipality to amending the Code in ways that are specific to the local area’s soil, water, and typical seasonal conditions. A local amendment is subject to the approval of the Board to ensure it meets the standards of the Code for the proper design, acceptable installation, and adequate maintenance of plumbing systems. Finally, the bill repeals the authority of a county to adopt a local plumbing code.

MACo Position: MACo opposed both bills, noting that they would limit local autonomy, increase costs for those counties forced to make local code changes, and do not address any systemic problem or weakness with the State’s current plumbing code system.

FINAL STATUS: The House Economic Matters Committee gave an unfavorable report to HB 711 and HB 1471. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave an unfavorable report to SB 643 and SB 831.

MACo HB 711 Testimony

MACo SB 643 Testimony

MACo HB 1471 Testimony

MACo SB 831 Testimony

Self-Driving Vehicle Task Force: HB 8 / SB 126 creates a Task Force to Study Issues Related to the Use of Self-Driving Vehicles (also called autonomous vehicles). The Task Force shall: (1) determine best practices for governing self-driving vehicles based on a review of other states’ laws, federal research, and any other research source; (2) review State automobile laws that would need to be updated; and (3) consider and make recommendations on: (i) driver training; (ii) liability; and (iii) any other issues the Task Forces deems relevant. The Task Force must report its findings and recommendations by January 1, 2018.

MACo Position: MACo supported the bill with amendments to expand the local representation on the Task Force. As introduced, the bill provided for a representative from the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. MACo’s amendment added a representative from the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association and a county engineer or public works representative.

FINAL STATUS: HB 8 was withdrawn by its sponsor after the Maryland Department of Transportation promised to incorporate the bill’s issues into an existing Autonomous Vehicle Working Group that was formed over the 2015 interim. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee gave SB 126 an unfavorable report.

MACo HB 8 Testimony

MACo SB 126 Testimony





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