RMC Announces Regional Community Development Stakeholder Meetings

The Rural Maryland Council (RMC) has announced dates of community development stakeholder meetings which will be held regionally across Maryland.

The announcement states,

The Community Development Network (CDN), with sponsorship by the Rural Maryland Council, organizes the industry into regional coalitions and hosts meetings in rural areas to report on the outcome of the General Assembly with the Community Development Network’s legislative priorities and begin discussions for next year.

All community development nonprofits, community action agencies, main streets, housing counseling organizations, and public agencies are welcome to each meeting.

The following sessions are being offered:

  • Allegany and Garrett Counties – May 9, 2017 at 10 am: Frostburg Senior Center- 27 S. Water Street, Frostburg, Maryland 21532 – Register here.
  • Frederick and Washington Counties – May 9, 2017 at 2 pm: Frederick Community Action Committee , 100 S. Market Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701 – Register here.
  • Southern Maryland – May 10, 2017 at 12 pm: College of Southern Maryland, Business and Industry Building, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata, Maryland 20646 – Register here.
  • Eastern Shore – May 17, 2017 at 12 pm: Delmarva Community Services, 2450 Cambridge Beltway, Cambridge, Maryland 21613 – Register here.

For more questions about our upcoming events, please contact the RMC at 410.841.5772 or rmc.mda@maryland.gov.

Montgomery Passes Bill to Enforce Foreclosed Property Registry

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously passed a bill imposing a civil penalty on property owners that do not register a foreclosed property purchase as required under state law.

As announced in a county council press release:

“This bill will address the ongoing problems many of our neighborhoods confront from foreclosed and neglected properties that are often in persistent disrepair, hurt home values, attract crime and force the County to expend limited resources to enforce code violations,” said Councilmember Hucker. “Bill 38-16 provides the County with new tools to enforce current law, ensure homes are properly maintained and taxes are paid, and encourage delinquent or absentee owners to rent, occupy or sell the property.”

The bill will impose a civil penalty for the failure to register a property that is purchased by foreclosure. By Maryland law since 2012, the purchaser of a foreclosed property must register the property with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLRR) and the Maryland Foreclosure Task Force within 30 days of the property’s foreclosure sale. The law authorizes local jurisdictions to enact legislation to impose a fine of $1,000 for failing to register.

The law was meant to address the period of nine to 18 months that frequently occurs between the date of a foreclosure and the date that the property title is transferred. During this time, local jurisdictions have a hard time identifying the party responsible for maintenance, security and taxes. To date, Montgomery County has not enacted any punitive fine and hundreds of foreclosed properties have gone unregistered since the General Assembly approved the law.

Read the full press release to learn more.

Sustainable Growth Commission Updating Reinvest Maryland Policy

A workgroup within the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is working to update and refine Commission’s Reinvest Maryland Report, which made State and local government recommendations regarding infill, redevelopment, and revitalization. While in development, Reinvest Maryland was originally known as Infill, Redevelopment, and Revitalization (IRR).

The original report, released in October of 2014, included over 60 recommendations broken down into 8 categories:

  1. Establish a Vision for Reinvestment
  2. Create and Better Fund Innovative, Effective Reinvestment Programs
  3. Identify and Address Regulations and Policies That May Impede Reinvestment
  4. Deploy Targeted Financial Tools
  5. Promote Equitable Development
  6. Encourage Excellence in Community Design and Preservation
  7. Use Metrics to Gauge Success and Provide Accountability
  8. Accelerate Transit-Oriented Development

The original report was supported by MACo.

The workgroup is updating the report to reflect current programs, land use practices, and economic development needs. The updated report will also better highlight programs and recommendations applicable to urban, suburban, and rural growth areas. County representatives on the workgroup include MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Garrett County Planning and Land Management Director Deborah Carpenter.

Currently, workgroup meetings are occurring every two weeks prior to the Commission’s full meeting on May 22 in Frederick, MD. For further information, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Useful Links

Sustainable Growth Commission Webpage

Former Reinvest Maryland Report – Fast Download Version (4 MB)

Former Reinvest Maryland Report – Full Resolution Version (22 MB)

Former Reinvest Maryland Report Appendices

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Reinvest Maryland/IRR

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Housing and Community Development

MACo advocates for process improvements and innovative tools to help counties support community development throughout Maryland.

The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s advocacy in the area of housing and community development in the 2017 General Assembly. 

Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database

Foreclosures

Over the interim MACo participated in the workgroup that studied foreclosures as well as vacant and blighted properties with the goal of providing local governments additional tools for addressing problem properties. The following package of bills was a result of the workgroup’s efforts.

Push Icons-WONMACo successfully supported a bill to enable the state and local governments to receive notification about properties entering the foreclosure process. The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 875/House Bill 1048, and it is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Bill InformationMACo Coverage

 

 

Push Icons-WONMACo successfully supported SB 957/HB 1168, a bill that would provide counties with the ability to establish land banks — a tool to help revitalize problem properties and stabilize neighborhoods. The General Assembly passed the legislation and it is awaiting the Governor’s signature.  Bill Information | MACo Coverage

 

 

Push Icons-WONMACo successfully amended legislation intended to expedite the foreclosure process to meet county concerns. Senate Bill 1022/House Bill 607 and Senate Bill 1033/House Bill 702 were a pair of bills intended to establish an expedited foreclosure process for homes that are vacant and abandoned. While MACo supported the shared goal of an efficient and effective process to expedite the foreclosure of vacant and abandoned properties, the bills as drafted raised liability and resource concerns. Ultimately, the General Assembly passed an amended version of SB 1033/HB 702. SB 1022/HB 607 did not advance.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo supported a bill that would require a foreclosure purchaser to update as necessary any information submitted when initially registering the property on the foreclosed property registry. House Bill 954 passed the House of Delegates and made it to Third Reader in the Senate, but unfortunately did not pass before the end of the legislative session. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Homebuyer Education

MACo amended a homebuyer education bill to prevent unintended negative consequences for local programs. House Bill 106 passed the House of Delegates with amendments but did not proceed through the Senate before the end of the legislative session. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Abandoned Cemeteries

Push Icons-NOT IDEALMACo supported a bill that would have authorized local governments to enact a local law allowing a lien to be set on abandoned private cemeteries for unpaid maintenance, repair, or preservation work performed by the government on the property. Unfortunately, House Bill 235 bill did not advance out of committee this year. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

Click here for a round up of the wrap-ups for all policy areas

Cecil County Executive McCarthy Streamlines Land Use and Development Services

Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy recently announced that services delivered in three different departments will be combined and housed under one new department, to be called the Department of Land Use and Development Services.

According to the county press release,

In accordance with this reorganization and consolidation, services provided by Planning & Zoning, Permits & Inspections and the plans review function of the Department of Public Works will all be combined as divisions within the new Department of Land Use and Development Services.

Dr. McCarthy states, “This reorganization will result in greater efficiency with the plans review and permitting processes by bringing all employees that administer this function together in one place.”

Currently, depending upon the type and approval phase of a construction project, constituents must conduct business in three different county offices.  Feedback provided by developers and construction companies strongly suggest that this consolidation and reorganization will streamline and simplify the development process, and be generally well received.

There are efficiencies realized through this new organization resulting in a reduction of one current position and the reclassification of some existing positions.  It is expected that further efficiencies resulting in increased savings will occur as this new organization plan is evaluated.  It is expected that the Department of Land Use and Developmental Services will be fully operational on or about May 1, 2017.

MACo Advocates for Amended Expedited Foreclosure Process

MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu sought to support legislation (SB 1033) with consensus amendments intended to establish an expedited foreclosure process for homes that are vacant and abandoned. These properties are often a source of blight and nuisance for the communities surrounding them.

Over the interim MACo participated in the workgroup that studied foreclosures as well as vacant and abandoned properties with the goal of providing local governments additional tools for addressing problem properties. Recently stakeholders came to a consensus on amendments to establish a framework for an expedited foreclosure process without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits.

MACo’s testimony raised a number of concerns that are addressed with the consensus amendments:

The bill requires that the appropriate county official verify to the court that the property is vacant and abandoned before the expedited foreclosure process may move forward.

The county would be vulnerable to constitutional claims and other costly and time-consuming lawsuits from an aggrieved party should the property turn out not to be vacant and abandoned.

Counties are also concerned about the staff time and resources that would need to be dedicated to inspecting the properties in order to verify that they are vacant and abandoned.

The mandatory inspections and verifications for the expedited foreclosure process would add a new layer of responsibly to their workloads without additional compensation, stretching already limited resources even thinner. The responsibility for verifying the properties are vacant and abandoned should fall on the foreclosing party.

Finally, while the community will benefit from a property that is no longer vacant and unmaintained, the bill should include stronger and clearer protections for the property owner on record. This could include adding notice provisions, as well as opportunities for an owner to object and appeal. The criteria used to determine “vacant and abandoned” should also be reinforced by appropriate documentation.

This bill was heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee on March 16. The cross-file to the bill (HB 702) was heard by the House Environment & Transportation committee on February 14, 2017. The house committee issued a favorable report on the house bill with the consensus amendments. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.

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

MACo Supports Sprinkler Assistance Funding for Rural Residents

MACo Policy Associate, Kevin Kinnally, testified in favor of Senate Bill 1103, “Home Sprinkler and Fire Safety Assistance Fund” on March 14, 2017 in front of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Senator Jim Mathias is the sponsor of this bill.

SB 1103 would provide funding assistance for required sprinkler systems for those in workforce and low-income housing in rural areas without public water.

MACo’s testimony states,

Since the passage of the sprinkler system mandate in 2012 (HB 366/SB 602), rural areas have witnessed a dramatic reduction in building permits for moderate- and low-income housing. Sprinkler systems not on public water can require high pressure pumps and water storage tanks that may add $10,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a new home – a significant cost in a rural area for a home designed for a moderate- to low-income family. SB 1103 would help address this issue by providing a limited funding mechanism to offset costly sprinkler and similar building code mandates.

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

MACo: Make Tax Refund Requirement Feasible For Counties

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick recently supported legislation (HB 1402) which requires counties to pay refunds resulting from property tax assessment appeals within an established time frame, but sought amendments to make the requirement more feasible. MACo’s amendments sought to extend the amount of time from 21 days to 30 days, and begin counting the days after the county receives notice of the decision from the appeal authority. The bill sponsor, Delegate Herb McMillan, introduced the amendments on MACo’s behalf.

MACo’s testimony states,

Begin Tolling Upon Tax Collector’s Receipt of Notice From Appeal Authority
A number of different government sectors participate in the appeal and refund process: the appeal authority, which may be the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT), a Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board, or the judiciary; the local government property tax collector; and the State, in its role as the state property tax collector. Prior to issuing a refund, the local government must first receive notification of the decision from the appeal authority, then coordinate with the taxpayer and State to verify the amount of state and local property tax due. Local finance offices cannot begin this verification process until they receive the initial notification of the refund owed from the appeal authority. For this reason, MACo respectfully requests that the timeframe begin to toll upon receipt of the decision notice.

Provide 30 Days to Issue Refunds

This would provide counties with a reasonable buffer of an additional week to accommodate for minor delays that can occasionally result from unavoidable occurrences like inclement weather closings, vacations, holidays, understaffing, technology malfunctions, etc. Counties believe that 30 days is a reasonable timeframe to verify the amounts owed with the applicable parties and subsequently issue these payments.

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

MACo Supports Streamlined Process For Fixing Neglected Property

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick recently testified in favor of House Bill 1496, “Tax Sales – Property Maintenance and Nuisance Condition Violation Judgments” which would allow local governments to use tax sale procedures to collect on judgments for property maintenance and nuisance condition violations.

MACo’s testimony states,

MACo supports this bill as a means to provide local governments with the tools necessary to abate nuisance conditions and property maintenance violations, without having to pass those costs onto other taxpayers.

Local governments often must step in to address the adverse conditions when landowners cause nuisances or allow their property to fall into a state of disrepair. Those landowners’ neighbors already have to deal with the negative impacts of the offending activity or neglect; they should not also have to bear the costs for abatement through their own tax dollars. Local governments should not have to choose between spending public funds to abate nuisances on private property, or leaving these adverse conditions to continue unaddressed, negatively affecting their citizens’ property values and quality of life. This bill provides a tool to allow local governments to hold property owners accountable, without having to pass the costs along to law-abiding taxpayers or make cuts to essential public services.

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

MACo Supports Property Tax Credits For Improvements in Revitalization Districts

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick recently testified in favor of House Bill 1323, “Property Tax – Credit for Revitalization Districts” which would authorize local governments to grant optional property tax credits to homeowners who make improvements to their homes in specified “revitalization districts.” Local governments have authority to define what a “revitalization district” is and where to designate them.

MACo’s testimony states,

HB 1323 authorizes counties to enact the property tax credit, determine the locations in which to implement it, and apply additional eligibility criteria as necessary. This will allow each jurisdiction that chooses to enact the credit to tailor it to their specific revitalization needs and incentivize improvements in those areas where the jurisdiction sees most fit. Additionally, it gives each county broad discretion to control how many credits it authorizes and how much revenue it is willing to forego to provide the desirable benefits enabled by the bill.

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