MACo Opposes Local Land Use Infringement Near Certain Religious Properties

MACo submitted written testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 421, “Counties – Historic Preservation – Development Limitation” on March 14, 2017 in front of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Senator Douglas Peters is the bill sponsor.

SB 421 would infringe on local land use authority and create land use challenges for properties located in a charter or code home rule county that seeks to redevelop or improve but is adjacent to certain “religious property” as defined in the bill.

MACo’s testimony states,

While MACo appreciates the bill sponsor’s concerns over a limited class of religious buildings, the requirements of SB 421 apply to all 17 charter and code home rule counties and may hamper long-term land use plans in those jurisdictions.

Based on a quick review, Montgomery County identified at least 7 sites meeting the bill’s criteria for religious property – suggesting there may be scores of similarly situated properties across the state. Baltimore City and other densely developed urban areas likely cannot comply with the bill’s 600-foot buffer for their qualifying religious properties.

SB 421 seeks to address concerns over a narrow class of developments but the bill’s provisions pose county land use challenges and potentially unanticipated consequences throughout the state. The bill’s intended remedy is both overbroad and unnecessarily infringes on local land use autonomy.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.