MACo Sprinkler Workgroup Preparing Legislation for the 2017 Session

An internal MACo Sprinkler Workgroup that has been meeting over the 2016 interim has concluded its primary work and is drafting legislation that address rural housing concerns over a 2012 State mandate to have sprinkler systems in single family dwellings. The Workgroup was formed after sprinkler legislation  failed to pass the General Assembly during the 2016 Session. As previously reported on Conduit Street, several rural counties have raised concerns about the mandate’s effect on affordable housing costs within their jurisdictions.

The Workgroup was composed of a geographically balanced mix of county elected officials, planners, code enforcement officials, budget officers, and fire safety representatives. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Caroline County Chief of Staff Sara Visintainer staffed the Workgroup. The Workgroup reviewed: (1) sprinkler system technologies, benefits, and costs; and (2) the effects the mandate was having on rural workforce and affordable housing.

After reviewing the collected data, the Workgroup decided to craft a legislative proposal that would focus to creating a grant or tax credit system for low-income or working class purchasers of single family homes not on public water that would offset the cost of installing a sprinkler system. The Workgroup is still finalizing the legislation’s details.

The approach is similar to legislation proposed during the 2016 Session. HB 1143 / SB 728 (sponsored by Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Jim Mathias) would have created a tax credit for certain single-family dwellings that have sprinkler systems. The Senate passed SB 728 with amendments that provided a tax credit for single-family dwellings that: (1) are constructed on or after January 1, 2016; (2) have no more than 2,000 square feet of living space; (3) are located in Allegany, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, or Worcester Counties; and (4) have an automatic fire sprinkler system. The record owner of the new dwelling may claim a credit equal to $1.25 for each square foot of the new dwelling to offset the cost of the installed sprinkler system. The Office of the State Fire Marshall shall receive and approve the applications. However, the Office may not approve a credits in a taxable year beginning after December 31, 2018. The House Ways & Means Committee passed HB 1143 and SB 728 with additional amendments but the House did not act on the Committee report before Sine Die and both bills failed.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage

HB 1143 / SB 728

MACo Speaks on Energy Siting, Agritourism Issues

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp discussed energy facility siting issues at the Solar Focus 2016 Conference on November 17 and agritourism issues at the 2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference on November 18.

Solar Focus 2016

Solar Focus 2016 is a conference sponsored by the Maryland/DC/Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV- SEIA) At the conference, Knapp discussed MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiative regarding the preemption of local zoning for the siting of “dispersed” energy generation facilities – utility-scale facilities that can be located on farmland or open space. These facilities can include clean energy such as solar and wind, and emergent technologies like gasification and biomass. Knapp stressed the need for county zoning in order to protect prime agricultural lands, historically or culturally important landscapes, and ecologically sensitive areas. He noted that poorly-sited projects could cause significant local disruption and threaten rural economies.

However, Knapp also noted the many benefits of solar projects and stated that counties who wanted to zone for solar would have a responsibility to create viable project sites by taking into account factors important to the industry (grid connections, flat and open land, etc.) Knapp predicted that utility scale solar would play an important role in Maryland’s energy generation going forward and that he believed careful planning now would eliminate problems and unintended consequences later.

Knapp was joined on the panel by Colby Ferguson of the Maryland Farm Bureau, Mike Volpe of Open Road Renewables, and Colin Meehan of First Solar.

2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference

The 2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference is sponsored by the University of Maryland under its Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI). Knapp was part of a panel that included Kevin Atticks of Grow and Fortify and E. Randy Marriner of Manor Hill Brewing. Knapp noted discussed the zoning and use challenges posed by agritourism activities, the collaborative work of the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) to create a model definition for “agricultural enterprise” that includes agritourism activities, and how county planners are continuing to work on the issue.

The Maryland Association of County Planning Officials plans to discuss the issue at its December 2 meeting.

Useful Links

MACo 2017 Legislative Initiatives

MDV-SEIA Website

ALEI Website

Making the 2017 Session Successful For Counties at #MACoCon

Conclude the 2016 MACo Winter Conference with an introduction to MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiatives, provide your input on managing these issues, and learn what you can do to help the county community achieve these important goals.

Session 2017: Path to Success


MACo’s success in Annapolis depends on contact at every level. Roll up your sleeves at this strategic session, as MACo’s policy leadership and staff guide a practical conversation on the road ahead for each of MACo’s top issues. Who are the key players, how do individual elected officials get involved, and what messages are essential? At stake are the heart-and-soul issues facing each county’s priorities, autonomy, and bottom line. Join this session to arm yourself and your county peers for the battles ahead.


  • Re-invest in Local Roads, Bridges, and Infrastructure
    • The Honorable John Barr, Washington County Commissioner
    • Barbara Zektick, Associate Director, MACo
  • Strong and Smart State Funding for School Construction
    • The Honorable Jan Gardner, Frederick County Exeuctive
    • Robin Clark Eilenberg, Research Editor, MACo
  • Energy Facility Siting
    • The Honorable William Pickrum, Kent County Commissioner
    • Leslie Knapp Jr., Legal and Policy Counsel, MACo
  • Balancing Release of Police Body Camera Video
    • David Morris, Chief of Police, Riverdale Park, and President, Maryland Chiefs of Police Association
    • John Fitzgerald, Chief, Village of Chevy Chase Police Department
    • Natasha Mehu, Associate Director, MACo

Moderator: The Honorable Jerry Walker, Anne Arundel County Council Member

Date & Time: Friday, December 9, 2016; 11:00 am – 12:30 pm (Followed by boxed lunches from 12:30 pm – 1:00 pm)

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Come Together After the Election by Conserving Farms & Open Space

A Delmarva Now op-ed (2106-11-20) by Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Rob Etgen proposed that one area our divided electorate can rally around is the conservation of parks, farms, and open space. From the op-ed:

It seems to me conservation of parks and farms and open space could provide a bridge across some of the divides that America faces. At the political level, both Democrats and Republicans have storied traditions in conservation – from Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s creation of the National Park system to Democratic President Obama’s creation of the Arctic Marine Sanctuary.

In our communities, parks are the melting pots where we all come together to celebrate, recreate and participate with each other, forming critical community bonds.

And at a personal level, I believe we all have a deep need for access to land and nature, and elbow room in an increasingly urbanized world.

As our new leaders take office at all levels, please encourage them to support parks, nature preserves and open space.

Useful Links

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Website

Maryland Cannabis Commission to Hire Diversity Consultant

Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission is taking steps toward evaluating minority participation in the state’s nascent cannabis industry, the panel’s executive director said Monday. The Commission plans on hiring a consultant to determine the feasibility of conducting a study to determine whether minorities have been unfairly excluded from the industry as a whole — a key step to legally awarding medical cannabis licenses based on racial criteria.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The announcement follows calls from African-American lawmakers in the General Assembly to halt the licensing process entirely because nearly all firms that have won preliminary licenses so far are owned by white men. It also comes after a lawsuit alleged the commission improperly ignored race when evaluating applicants. A state law required the commission to “actively seek to achieve” racial diversity.

The commission has said it followed the advice of the Maryland Attorney General when it did not include race-based selection criteria in applications since it is unconstitutional to do so without a disparity study.

Patrick Jameson, the commission’s executive director, said Monday the consultant will review “the whole big picture” of diversity in medical marijuana, though it was not immediately clear what specific steps the consultant would take.

Jameson said the commission has already seen “significant minority participation” among the employees, directors and investors of companies awarded 15 preliminary licenses to grow and 15 preliminary licenses to process marijuana.

He said the commission is “highly encouraging” these businesses to recruit minorities as investors and employees when practical.

Meanwhile, the commission gave preliminary approval for 102 dispensaries. They were chosen in a blind review designed to avoid favoritism, and their names will be made public Dec. 9. Each of Maryland’s 47 state Senate districts can have up to two dispensaries and the 15 marijuana growers also could apply to open a dispensary, for a total of up to 109. Of the finalists approved Monday, two Senate districts had only one dispensary, while the others each had two. Five growers did not apply for licenses.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Medical Cannabis

Coverage from The Baltimore Sun

Learn more about medical cannabis issues and the potential workplace challenges it poses during the Cannabis in the Workplace: Clearing the Haze panel at the 2016 MACo Winter Conference.

Here are more details:

Title: Cannabis in the Workplace: Clearing the Haze

Description: After years of working to establish drug-free workplaces, employers now face the possibility of legal drug users within their organizations. As long as it remains illegal under federal law, many employers remain committed to their drug-free policies and intend to continue testing applicants and employees for cannabis. Other employers may decide to modify their current policies based on changes in state law. With the numerous legal and policy considerations swirling around medical cannabis, employers and workers alike are seeking clarification. In this session, representatives from the public and private sectors will discuss the many liability and logistical issues due to the changing landscape of state medical cannabis laws, including the potential for accommodation requests and wrongful termination claims. Attend this session to hear more about what to expect in the near future and the best practices to protect your workplace and employees.


  • Shad Ewart, Professor, Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Emerging Markets: Marijuana Legalization Anne Arundel Community College
  • William C. Tilburg, Deputy Director, Legal Resource Center for Public Policy, University of Maryland
  • Dr. Stephen Fisher, Medical Advisor to the CEO, Director of Health Services, Chesapeake Employers Insurance Company

Moderator: The Honorable William Valentine, Commissioner, Allegany County

Date/Time: Thursday, December 8, 2016; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Fun Fact: Did You Know that Heart-Shaped Dorchester County is the Largest County in Maryland?

Question: Did you know that heart-shaped Dorchester County is the largest county in Maryland?

It’s true! Dorchester County is the largest county in Maryland — when its water area is included; otherwise it’s the fourth largest. The shape of Dorchester actually resembles a heart and it is located at the mid-point of the Chesapeake therefore it is often referred to as “Heart of the Chesapeake.” It consists of 688 square miles with over 122,000 acres of wetlands—40 percent of the entire state’s wetlands. These wetlands are scenic and an integral part of the food chain for the Chesapeake Bay. The wetlands and adjoining upland areas contain both protected federal and state reserves for the nature enthusiast, as well as hunting areas for the sportsman. Deer, Canada geese, black ducks, mallards, and diving ducks are favorites among hunters.

dorchesterSource: Visit Dorchester’s website

Do you have a fun fact to share about your county? If so, please send it to Kaley Schultze to be featured in MACo’s weekly Fun Fact on Conduit Street.

Join us in Dorchester County December 7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge for MACo’s Winter Conference: An Ounce of Prevention.


Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

MEA’s Community Wind Webinar – December 8

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) will host a Community Wind Webinar on Thursday, December 8 from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.

The Maryland Energy Administration’s (MEA) wind energy program focuses on three categories of deployments: residential, community and commercial scale projects. Through its various Windswept Grant Programs, educational outreach, and Anemometer Loan Program, MEA provides support to Maryland residents, businesses, government entities and non-profits wishing to install wind energy systems.

Speakers include:

  • Samuel Beirne – Maryland Energy Administration, Wind Energy Program Manager
  • David Murrin – Alpha Energy, LLC, Chairman and Community Wind Gamechanger Contract Manager
  • Rebecca Rush – Community Wind Gamechanger, Contract Outreach Coordinator

You will learn about community wind basics including, size, location, best resources, and the guidance when planning your community wind project. In addition, you will learn about community wind economics, financing mechanisms, and grant programs provided by MEA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources.

Click here to register. For more information, contact Samuel Beirne at or 410-537-4000.

Despite Controversy, Cannabis Commission To Announce Dispensary Licenses December 9

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-11-17) reported that the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission will formally announce winning applications for approximately 100 preliminary dispensary licenses on December 9, despite current litigation and pending legislation over racial and geographic diversity concerns in the grower and processor licensing process. From the article:

 The state received more than 800 applications to open dispensaries across Maryland. The law legalizing medical marijuana allows for up to two dispensaries in each of Maryland’s 47 legislative districts, plus one for each of the 15 marijuana growers.

The commission turned over the applications to Towson’s Regional Economic Studies Institute, which used outside experts to review and rank the applications without regard to the identity of the applicant.

A subsequent Baltimore Sun article (2016-11-18) reported that leaders of the Maryland General Assembly’s black caucus were angry with the Commission’s decision to issue dispensary licenses while the grower and processor licensing process is facing both litigation and legislation.

“It’s unbelievable to me that the commission would move forward on anything when they know all of their decisions to date are under complete scrutiny,” said [Delegate Cheryl] Glenn, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. “Why move forward and create more confusion and discord with additional licenses?” …

[Medical Cannabis Commission spokesperson Vanessa Lyon] said the commission did not consider halting the process and is “committed to ensuring that qualifying patients, the sick and suffering of Maryland, are provided with a process to receive the most safe and effective medicine in the timeliest manner possible.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, both Democrats, declined to comment. …

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said preliminary medical marijuana license decisions “are in the hands of this independent commission and the legal system.”

The article noted that several lawsuits have been filed over the Commission’s decision to award two lower ranking applicants grower licenses over two higher scoring applicants to ensure geographic diversity. A separate lawsuit was filed alleging the Commission failed to take into account racial diversity when reviewing grower and processor license applicants. Glenn also plans to introduce legislation during the 2017 Session to address the racial diversity issue.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Medical Cannabis

Learn more about medical cannabis issues and the potential workplace challenges it poses during the Cannabis in the Workplace: Clearing the Haze panel at the 2016 MACo Winter Conference.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Smart Growth Subcabinet Wants to Hear From You at #MACoCon

Give your input on pending Smart Growth, land use, and conservation issues directly to the Smart Growth Subcabinet at the 2016 MACo Winter Conference. The Subcabinet helps implement Smart Growth policy in the state and is composed of many of the cabinet secretaries, the Maryland Energy Administrator, and the Executive Director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education.

Smart Growth Subcabinet Meeting


The Governor’s Smart Growth Subcabinet is holding a public forum for county and municipal elected leaders and planning officials, as well as all convention attendees. This will be an opportunity for elected leaders and planning officials to discuss with the Subcabinet local government issues relating to activities that affect smart growth, development, neighborhood conservation and resource management. The Subcabinet helps implement Maryland’s Smart Growth Policy, recommending to the Governor changes in State law, regulations, and procedures needed to support the Policy.

Date & Time: Wednesday, December 7, 2016; 9:30 am – 10:30 am

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Charles County Considers New Development Limits

A BayNet article (2016-11-17) reported on a proposal to create a new Watershed Conservation District (WCD) along the Mattawoman Creek watershed and the headwaters of the Port Tobacco River in Charles County. The proposed change follows the adoption of the County’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan and would limit development potential in the affected area. Charles County Planning Director Steve Ball briefed the County’s Planning Commission on the proposed WCD. From the article:

“The idea is to guide development away from natural areas,” Ball said. The resolution will allow agriculture, horticulture and open air markets. Residential will be limited to single family homes, one unit per 20 acres.

“There are also specific regulations within the WCD, proposed text which would place limitations on impervious surfaces,” Ball added.

The area under consideration encompasses some 20 different zoning districts and includes a total of 36,679.61 acres.

“About half of the properties would no longer be zoned rural conservation deferred,” Ball explained. “That covers all of the watershed of the Mattawoman and headwaters of the Port Tobacco River.”

The article also stated that the county commissioners will vote on the proposed changes in March of 2017 and a public hearing on the proposal will be held at the planning commission’s November 28 meeting.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan