MACo: Program Open Space Decisions Should Remain Local

On January 25, 2022, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in opposition to SB 56 – Program Open Space – Local Plans and Programs – General Assembly Approval. This bill would require the General Assembly to approve county Program Open Space plans every year.

From the MACo testimony:

Historically, the General Assembly has also played an important role with the success of Program Open Space. Legislation has helped to prioritize its use for the balanced goals of land preservation and active resident access. This visioning role should remain the province of a citizen legislature, to guide and refine the scope of the program as times change. SB 56, however, expands that role to smaller-scale ministerial duties, where such a large deliberative body would be least effective.

One successful hallmark of Program Open Space has been its deliberate design to grant speed and discretion to counties in expanding access to active and outdoor recreational spaces. This bill would compromise that local autonomy by effectively granting the General Assembly a “veto” over these local plans. This would create an additional waiting period of at least a year before a county could move forward with its local plan. That additional delay would not only create a bureaucratic backlog, but also have a negative impact on economic development. Land acquisitions, park upgrades, the purchase of necessary equipment, etc., would all be delayed, and in many cases, opportunities arising from willing landowners would be lost.

SB 56 could undermine a very productive State/local collaborative model for one of our state’s showcase policy innovations in Program Open Space.

More on MACo’s Advocacy:
Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2022 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
Learn more about MACo’s 2022 Legislative Initiatives.
Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog.