MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in support of two bills designed to mitigate persistent nontidal flooding in historic areas before the House Environment and Transportation Commitee on February 28. The bills, HB 1408 and HB 1420, target the chronic flooding issues in Ellicott City but would apply to similarly situated historic areas throughout the state. Delegate Robert Flanagan is the sponsor of both bills.
HB 1408 authorizes the legislative body of a local government to allow a deviation from historic preservation standards for a “qualified historic district” in order to prevent and reduce the risk
of lethal and life-threatening nontidal flooding. The bill defines “qualified historic district” as a locally designated historic district in which: (1) nontidal flooding has resulted in a demonstrable
threat to the life and safety of individuals or the death of an individual; and (2) four or more repetitive loss properties are located.
Knapp argued that the bill creates a narrow and needed exception to the normally strict historical preservation standards. From MACo’s testimony:
Maryland is a state rich in history and county governments are protective of our designated historic areas, such as Ellicott City. However, many of these historic areas were built at a time when concerns over stormwater management were minimal or non-existent. In areas subject to repetitive, nontidal flooding, the lack of proper stormwater infrastructure can lead to losses of property and in extreme cases, human life.
The bill allows a county government to waive the normally strict historical preservation standards in order to install modern stormwater and flood management systems that can help
minimize the risk to life and property during a flooding event. The bill’s scope is limited to historic districts with a proven history of nontidal flooding issues.
Representatives from the Howard County Council and an Ellicott City flood work group also testified in support of the bill. Preservation Maryland testified in opposition. There is no Senate cross-file to HB 1408.
HB 1420 clarifies that monies from a local watershed and restoration fund, established by a local jurisdiction subject to a Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, may be used for projects that manage extreme volumes of nontidal floodwater in areas where historical nontidal flooding problems exist. From the MACo testimony:
Some areas within these jurisdictions are subject to historic nontidal flooding that can pose a risk to public safety and property. Many of these areas were built at a time when concerns over stormwater management were minimal or non-existent. HB 1420 would provide certainty that the fund may be used for constructing necessary flood mitigation and treatment projects.
As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the bill is explicitly authorizing a fund use that is “likely already allowed under current law.” Current law under § 4-202.1(a)(4)(i) [of the Environment Article] allows the fund to be broadly used for “[c]apital improvements for stormwater management.” MACo believes HB 1420 simply clarifies that those improvements include stormwater projects designed toaddress areas with historic nontidal flooding.
Representatives from the Howard County Council and an Ellicott City flood work group also testified in support of the bill. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation testified in opposition. There is no Senate cross-file to HB 1420.