Montgomery and Prince George’s Ink Purple Line Affordable Housing Deal

Leaders from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have signed an agreement to help preserve affordable housing and equitable economic growth along the developing purple line.

Bethesda Magazine reports:

The agreement espouses four goals for local governments and planning boards along the route: help local businesses prosper, expand the local labor force, create housing opportunities for all incomes and promote vibrant, sustainable communities.

The agreement is not legally enforceable, but the leaders said it could provide a moral guide to future leaders who will have to handle the new development and economic growth expected after the Purple Line is completed in 2022.

The article explains that the agreement was drafted by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a group  whose members include resident and business groups, local governments, and community organizations.

While not legally binding, the signatories pledge to work together to protect the residents and businesses. Signatories included Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, University of Maryland, College Park, President Wallace Loh and regional planers.

The agreement was developed out of concern that current long-time low income residents and small businesses will be displaced as neighborhoods lining the corridor experience economic growth. As noted in The Washington Post county leaders expressed understanding from past experiences of the need to protect those residents.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said he has heard from residents, particularly in the heavily Latino Langley Park area, who welcome the Purple Line but are concerned about being priced out.

“This agreement says, ‘We hear you,’ ” Baker said. “We’re looking at ways . . . to give them every opportunity they want to stay there.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he wished the county had had a similar commitment in place to protect small businesses as downtown Silver Spring was redeveloped.

For more information:

Montgomery, Prince George’s Leaders Sign Agreement to Pursue Equitable Growth Along Purple Line (Bethesda Magazine)

Montgomery, Prince George’s reach deal to preserve affordable housing along Purple Line (The Washington Post)



Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #5 – The Power of Partnership

MACo’s Winter Conference will focus on intergovernmental cooperation and ways that counties can partner with entities in the public and private sector to achieve the best results for Maryland’s residents. Sessions will highlight collaboration across county lines and service areas to address priorities like the opioid epidemic, Next Gen 9-1-1, and the environment, along with other important topics like mutual aid agreements and cooperative purchasing.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss the MACo Winter Conference and its focus on reviewing timely issues that will be relevant during the upcoming Maryland General Assembly Session.

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Community Gardens and Food System Plans: Creating A Win

A Sustainable City Network article (2017-10-25) discussed how two very different local governments (the City of Madison, Wisconsin, and Douglas County, Kansas) went about implementing community gardens and food system plans.

City of Madison, Wisconsin

The article noted that the City of Madison has supported community gardens since the 1990s. In 2014, the City partnered with the nonprofit Community Groundworks and the Dane County/University of Wisconsin Extension to form the Gardens Network. The Network took on the task of creating a community garden in the Brittingham Park area of the City. Overcoming intial community resistance and implementation challenges, the community garden helped revitalize Brittingham Park and serves as an anchor for other types of events. From the article:

[Brittingham Park] is situated downtown between a traditional single-family neighborhood and a multi-family area with a high density of immigrant and lower income families.

When in 2010 there began to be pressure for more garden space downtown, Brittingham Park was identified as a possible location. The high-density sections of the neighborhood had some safety issues in part because of low foot traffic through the area. Local police saw a community garden as a good way to bring more people into the area, [Madison City Food Policy Council Chair Nan] Fey said. From the social equity lens, it was seen as a way to improve lives for a Hmong community living in the neighborhood, for whom gardening is a traditional activity.

However, there was some resistance from other residents in the single-family area of the neighborhood. Fey said some were worried a garden would be messy and attract the “wrong kind of people” to the park. In 2012, community meetings began and the city council representative from the neighborhood was not supportive. …

In the fall of that year, the mayor proposed a policy of citing gardens in parks and the city moved forward. In 2013 the Brittingham Park site was chosen for a garden, and planting started that June. Deep waterlines were installed, but no fence surrounded the vegetables. “The bunnies feasted,” Fey said.

In 2014, she said, a low cost, “aesthetically pleasing rabbit fencing” was installed. Safety in the park is much improved and there is good publicity in the local paper, according to Fey. “Neighbors formerly opposed have come to appreciate the garden,” she added. Now the garden includes 38 spots and four raised beds, and it has a waiting list. The Hmong and elderly have priority for obtaining a spot.

There are also public art displays and seating areas. “Brittingham Park is a tremendous success story in town,” Fey said. “Community gardens are about growing more than vegetables.”

Douglas County, Kansas

According to the article, Douglas County has a population of 118,000, with 94,000 of that total living in the City of Lawrence. Lawrence houses the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. The article explained how the  Douglas County Food Policy Council (FPC) worked to create a food systems plan to serve the entire county. The FPC was created by the County Commission in 2010 and was turned into a joint County/City partnership in 2013.

When faced with this experiment in equitable food systems planning, [Douglas County Food Policy Coordinator Helen] Schoes said, “the commissioners didn’t want just another ‘foodie liberal’ pat yourself on the back plan from Lawrence.” Instead, they wanted to be sure all voices were at the table. The 23-members group includes a no-till farmer and cattle producer, a state policy advocate, a retail food outlet, a youth representative, and people representing senior food nutrition programs, the health department, a farmers market, and sustainability advocates.

In spite of a potentially unwieldy structure, Schnoes said, the group notched several major accomplishments, including leveraging an initial $6,800 investment into more than a $1 million, and the development of a food systems plan, which was incorporated into the county’s updated comprehensive plan. It sets a framework for the next 10 years to guide policy changes by local governments, shape the work of the FPC, and inspire community actions and partnerships.

Schnoes said the food systems plan defines “how we produce, buy, eat, and dispose of food.” It recognizes that the “journey our food takes from field to plate is influenced by eco-systems, education, culture, funding, research and public policies.” …

From this work the FPC has developed goals to strive for in the future:

Goal 1: Agricultural producers, food entrepreneurs, and food sector workers thrive in our regional economy.

Goal 2: As our cities grow, we prioritize natural resource conservation and maintain working lands to promote soil health.

Goal 3: We build and design our communities to ensure food access, foster health, and eliminate food deserts.

Goal 4: Our community fosters an equitable food system.

Goal 5: Our community eliminates waste in our local food system.

Schnoes advises other communities to “keep the goal to build an equitable food system front and center. Don’t assume you know what communities need — go work with them first and find out.”

City Council Considers Reviving ‘Dollar House’ Program

To help revitalize distressed neighborhoods, Baltimore City Council Member Mary Pat Clarke has introduced a resolution to bring back the City’s “Dollar House” program.

The program last operated in the 1980s. Through it the City would sell houses for $1 and provide access to low interest loans to help finance the homes’ rehabilitation. The homeowners would be required to live in the house for a set amount of time. According to The Baltimore Sun:

“As Baltimore looks to solve the seemingly intractable problem of revitalizing neighborhoods beset by vacant homes, it would do well to look to solutions that have succeeded here in the past,” Clarke’s resolution states. “The City’s highly successful ‘Dollar House’ program from the 1980’s could serve as a useful model for true grassroots neighborhood revitalization in the modern era.”

The City Council will hold a hearing Wednesday on the resolution.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Maryland, HUD Reach Fair Housing Agreement

Maryland has reached an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to settle a fair housing complaint brought against the state in 2011. The agreement requires the state to revise its housing policy and to finance the development of 1,500 affordable housing units across the more affluent neighborhoods in the Baltimore region.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The coalition accused the state of reinforcing housing segregation through by clustering subsidized, affordable housing developments together and in less desirable areas, rather than spreading them throughout the region. On Tuesday, fair-housing advocates applauded the deal as a significant commitment by the state to improve access for low-income renters to well-off neighborhoods that they have been excluded from in the past.

As stated in the article, the State has already made some progress on revising its affordable housing policy. One major change was promising to never reinstate veto authority counties had over proposed affordable housing developments. The authority was revoked by the General Assembly in 2014. Additional changes include a new policy for awarding low-income housing tax credits and tying tax credits to community revitalization efforts.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Cecil Announces Countywide Day of Service

Cecil County has announced Cecil Cares 2017 will be held on September 23, 2017. The initiative will offer residents a chance to volunteer their time, energy, and skills with local organizations throughout the County.

According to a press release,

Cecil County Department of Community Services will sponsor Cecil Cares 2017, a countywide day of service, on Saturday, September 23. The day of service will offer Cecil County residents the opportunity to volunteer their time, energy and skills with local organizations (nonprofits, faith based/service organizations, government agencies) on a variety of hands-on service projects around the county.

During last year’s inaugural event approximately 60 volunteers supported hands-on service projects. This year, Cecil Cares projects will take place at Cecil County Animal Services, Deep Roots, Elkton Community Kitchen, Fair Hill Nature Center, Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program, Generation Station, Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (Elk Neck State Park), and Meeting Ground. Additionally, four organizations – CASA of Cecil County, Cecil County Arts Council, Cecil Land Trust, and the Historical Society of Cecil County – will coordinate a joint project.

Interested volunteers may register for a Cecil Cares 2017 project by filling out the Registration Form on the County website at and sending it to Volunteers may also register on the Volunteer Cecil website at, or by contacting the specific organization they wish to assist. Questions about the event may be directed to or by calling 410-996-8416.

Cecil Cares 2017 and Volunteer Cecil are coordinated by Cecil County Department of Community Services (DCS) and funded by the Volunteer Generation Fund through the Maryland Governor’s Office on Service & Volunteerism (GOSV).

For more information, contact Krista A. Gilmore, Volunteer/Community Resource Coordinator:

Register Now: Land Bank 101 – Everything You Need to Know

What’s a land bank? Can it help eliminate blight and revitalize my community? Are they allowed in Maryland? How do I get one started?

These questions and more will be answered in the Land Bank 101 Workshop hosted by the Community Development Network (CDN) in partnership with Delegate Marvin E. Holmes, Jr., Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond-Baltimore Branch. The workshop will be held Thursday, September 28, 2017 at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex (8001 Sheriff Road Hyattsville, MD 20785). 

This workshop will have all you need to know about what Land Banks do, how Maryland’s law works, and how jurisdictions can implement the new law.

The national experts in this field, the Center for Community Progress, will run the workshop and answer your questions.

This is one of the many events taking place during Community Development Week!


10:00am Welcome and Introductions

10:10–11:30am  Land Bank 101-Center for Community Progress

11:30am–1:00pm  Overview of Maryland’s legislation HB1168/SB957 (and working lunch provided)

1:00–3:00pm Hands on Workshop for Prince George’s and Dorchester County Officials Only

This is a free event, but you must register to attend

For questions or more information contact:

Odette Ramos
Community Development Network of Maryland


Tackling Complex Public Works Projects at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “Flushing Your Troubles Down the Drain, the South Kent Island Solution” attendees learned how Queen Anne’s County and the Maryland Departments of Planning and the Environment were able to address public health and environmental concerns by connecting 1,518 existing homes and eight commercial properties to a safe and effective public sewer system.

Todd Mohn, Director, Department of Public Works, Queen Anne’s County, began the session by providing an overview of the South Kent Island sewer project. Mr. Mohn discussed why the project is necessary and identified the numerous stakeholders involved with the planning and implementation of the project.

Steve Cohoon, Public Facilities Planner, Queen Anne’s County, discussed the areas impacted by the project. Mr. Mohn also described how the county was faced with an alarming septic system failure rate on South Kent Island (70-90%), and how environmental and health concerns made the project a top priority for Queen Anne’s County.

Julie Barown, P.E., Northeast Regional Municipal Systems, Orenco Systems, Inc. talked about the technical specifications of the South Kent Island sewer system, including why the STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) system is far superior to OSDS (On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems) systems. According to Mrs. Barown, in addition to reducing costs, the STEP system will greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen being discharged into the Chesapeake Bay from the South Kent Island service area.

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner At-Large Jim Moran concluded the panel by discussing how limited funding, Smart Growth requirements, and anti-growth concerns—among many other concerns and challenges—made it necessary to create a unique solution. Commissioner Moran also talked about the potential political consequences that can result from controversial public works projects, and how the county sought to mitigate concerns by seeking citizen input throughout the planning process.

The session was moderated by Delegate Shane Robinson and was held on Friday, August 18. The MACo Summer Conference was August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year the conference’s theme was “You’re Hired!”.

New Tools to Battle Blight and Abandonment at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “No Vacancy: Revitalizing Vacant and Blighted Properties” attendees learned about recently passed legislation that will help counties reduce blight and turn problem properties into productive properties.

Odette Ramos, Executive Director of the Community Development Network (CDN), began the session by providing an overview of bills that were passed and signed into law during the 2017 general assembly session. This included: SB957/HB1168 – Land Bank Reform; HB1048/SB875 – Foreclosed Property Registry; HB702/SB1033 – Definition of vacant and abandoned property related to expedited foreclosure; HB659/SB823 – Tax Sale Reform. Ramos also mentioned HB 954 – Foreclosed Property Registry updates which did not make it through both committees before time ran out on Sine Die.

Dorchester County Grants Administrator, Cindy Smith, gave attendees the boots on the ground perspective of the the difficulties counties face with problem properties and how local jurisdictions can use the new tools at their disposal to remedy the problems. Smith shared some striking before and after pictures of properties within Dorchester County.

The Director  of Foreclosure Outreach at the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) Meredith Mishaga, presented on the state’s foreclosed property registry.

Ramos concluded the panel with an update on the tax sale workgroup and expedited foreclosure work.

The session was moderated by Delegate Marvin Holmes and was held on Thursday, August 17, 2017.

Harford County Receives $570K State Grant to Assist Families in Need

The state of Maryland has awarded a total of $570,994 to Harford County’s Local Management Board to fund child and family focused programs in fiscal year 2018.

According to a press release,

The Local Management Board (LMB) is a grant-funded organization within the county’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, under the administration of County Executive Barry Glassman. This year’s total includes a competitive grant award of $88,000, which the LMB will use for new programs to reduce childhood hunger, empower families to escape poverty and diminish the impact of parental incarceration on children in Harford County. The funding was announced on May 31, 2017 by the Maryland’s Children’s Cabinet, through the Governor’s Office for Children as part of $18 million in statewide grant awards to Maryland’s Local Management Boards.

Specifically, this year’s total grant funding will allow the LMB to offer the following new programs in Harford County:

“Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World” is an educational program for low income families that addresses the causes of poverty.

“Parenting Inside Out (PIO)” is an evidence-based parenting skills training program for families affected by parental incarceration.

“Project S.E.E.K. (Services to Empower and Enable Kids)” is a program aimed at reducing intergenerational incarceration. The program addresses the risk and protective factors associated with delinquency and criminal behavior at both the individual and family levels.

“Reducing Childhood Hunger” helps families become more self-sufficient, food-secure, and economically stable. Rather than offering pre-packaged/pre-weighed food, the program creates a food pantry where clients can shop for their own groceries using a point system.

Formed in 1994, Harford County’s Local Management Board brings together local child-serving agencies; local child providers; clients of services; families, and other community representatives to address the critical needs of and recommends priorities for the County.

Read the full Harford County press release for more information.