Planners Confront the Virtual World at #MACoCon

County officials and planners learned how planning is increasingly dealing with a virtual world through geographic information system (GIS) anad other technologies at the “Land Use in Virtual World” panel on August 19.

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Prince George’s County Division Chief James Cannistra discussed the visualization of data through GIS. He discussed the requirements of maintaining a useful GIS system (particularly the underlying data layers). Cannistra mentioned Prince George’s GIS open data initiative, which makes data and analysis tools available for public use. He also briefly discussed the zoning and permitting issues raised by the sharing economy, such as ride sharing or AirBnB. He urged counties to gather data on the use of such services in their jurisdictions and the likelihood of having to modify permitting requirements. Finally, he stressed the large potential of using drones to gather visualization data.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Planning Panel
(L to R) Anthony Puzzo, Jim Cannistra, and Delegate Steve Lafferty

ESRI State and Local Government Manager Anthony Puzzo discussed how GIS 3D visualization can support long range planning, project review, and citizen and decision maker communication. Puzzo showed a 3D version of Washington DC and demonstrated how applying different data overlarys can easily show development impacts. He also discussed the emerging use of holograms, augmented reality (the technology used in Pokémon Go) and virtual reality in planning.

Maryland Delegate Stephen Lafferty moderated the panel. Lafferty asked what other technologies the panel anticipated coming beyond current 3D visualization. Cannistra mentioned allowing information available on mobile devices. Anthony reiterated the potential of virtual reality and augmented reality.



Medical Cannabis Update at #MACoCon

Attendees to the 2016 MACo Summer Conference heard an update on medical cannabis at the “Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission: Questions and Answers for Public Officials” on August 20.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Medical Cannabis Panel 1
Delegate Peña-Melnyk (L) introduces Jameson (Center) and Taylor (R)

Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson and Ex Officio Commission Member Allison Taylor responded to audience questions about the status of the application process for medical cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries. Jameson stressed in his introductory remarks that the goal of the Commission is to “deliver safe and effective medicine.”

Responding to a question about local zoning, Jameson noted that counties can do whatever local zoning they want to, regardless of where the state is at in the application process. He also stated that because the cannabis is a medical product, it is not taxed by the state. Multi-state operations are allowed but all product must stay within the state, he explained. Jameson also said the State plans to implement a “seed to sale” tracking system for any medical cannabis produced in the state. Finally, Jameson cautioned that dispensary applications are still under review and preliminary approvals will not be released until September or October.

Taylor responded to questions about the scoring process the Commission used in reviewing applications. The review process was “double blind” and largely set by the General Assembly.

Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk moderated the session.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Medical Cannabis Panel 2
(L to R) Jameson and Taylor responding to audience questions

Ellicott City Flooding Prompts Discussion on Land Use & Stormwater Changes

Baltimore Sun article (2016-08-13) reported that Howard County is grappling with the flooding and runoff issues facing Ellicott City – brought into stark relief by the recent devastating flooding of the City’s historic main street. The County is considering proposals that would limit or prohibit further development above the City and require stronger stormwater management requirements. The article detailed that the County has acknowledged the flooding problem:

As development has increased on the hilly terrain overlooking the 244-year-old river town, the amount of rain rushing off rooftops and parking lots has also grown — making Ellicott City’s low-lying Main Street more vulnerable to intense rains that meteorologists say are hitting the region more frequently. …

Howard County officials insist that development by itself cannot be blamed for a dramatic act of nature, but they and residents believe the devastating floods in July and another in 2011 send a clear message: Heavy rains will come again, and something must change. …

County officials say older developments built decades ago have more significant problems with runoff. In fact, some newer redevelopments improve antiquated stormwater management systems because any project built after 1985 is subject to runoff restrictions.

“The difficulty this community has is it’s at the bottom of a funnel,” said Jim Caldwell, who is in charge of community sustainability in Howard County. “The watershed is very steep. It’s all heading down to the Patapsco River.”

While virtually everyone agrees that new policies are needed to minimize future flooding occurrences, the article noted that there is debate about which policies need to be changed:

“When you think you’re going higher and higher up the hill and insisting on being allowed to develop on steep slopes, to squeeze in just a couple more units, you really have to question the wisdom of what we’re doing,” said Susan Garber, a Savage resident who writes about county issues in a blog called “How Come?” …

Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, said it’s “myopic” to believe development hasn’t played a role in flooding.

“What they suggest is this is an act of God or a fluke and therefore nobody can be blamed. … The stormwater problems in Ellicott City are the result of storms, that’s true, but the problem is there is no recovery area to absorb intensive flows,” Tutman said. “That’s something the county really needs to step up for and plan for.” …

Katie Maloney, chief lobbyist for the Fulton-based Maryland Building Industry Association, said limiting development in Ellicott City isn’t necessary. She argues that redeveloping older properties is one of the solutions to the runoff problem.

“Much of the problem we have is because of all the properties built before the stormwater regulations,” she said. “All that water just runs off. There are no storm drains, no ponds; there is nothing to stop that water from flowing into the street. In Ellicott City, it’s a very old area.”

The article also detailed the short-term and long-term response of County Executive Allan Kittleman, including funding and the creation of a workgroup to recommend policy changes:

“There’s nothing we can do to stop six inches of rain,” Kittleman said. “But we can have an impact on other storms.”

His first budget — for the 2016 fiscal year — included $2.5 million to start knocking off $18 million worth of flood control projects in the Main Street area. He followed up with $2.8 million for fiscal 2017, the current budget year that began July 1.

Kittleman also created the Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup to recommend next steps for flood prevention and mitigation. …

The work group’s recommendations for next steps include improving existing stormwater controls, such as increasing the size of underground pipes and stormwater holding ponds; clearing debris that builds up in the Tiber and Hudson tributaries, and adding alarms that would sound when flows increase in those streams.

The group also called for reducing the amount of impervious surfaces, by turning developed places into natural areas, and for stronger efforts to ensure that new developments don’t harm the environment. …

Caldwell said some county officials are considering radical steps, including requiring developments to build for extreme flooding and restricting cars from Main Street.

The article also stated that the workgroup is debating whether to recommend development limitations.

“It is a touchy subject,” said Lori Lilly, a watershed management and planning consultant who serves on the work group. “Nobody wants to hear that we don’t want any new development in the watershed.”

Instead of restricting development, Lilly and others support incentives to encourage landowners to preserve forested hillsides. “You can’t replace woods with a stormwater management practice and it be the same thing,” she said.

Planning Commission & Board of Appeals Training at #MACoCon

The Maryland Department of Planning kicked off the 2016 MACo Summer Conference on 2016-08-07 by offering its free planning and land use course. The several hour course outlines the history of land use in Maryland, basics of planning and Smart Growth, and key land use issues currently facing the state. While designed for planning commissioners and board of appeals members, any interested county official can attend. The course is required under state law and is offered at the MACo Summer Conference, MML Annual Convention, and online. You do not have to be registered for the MACo conference to attend this session.

2016 Summer Conference Planning Commission Training

Maryland Department of Planning staff, including Lower Eastern Shore Regional Planners Keith Lackie and Tracey Gordy, Director of Planning Coordination Chuck Boyd, and Principal Counsel Paul Cucuzzella walked attendees through the course materials.


Useful Links

Planning Commission/Board of Appeals Training Course Webpage

Cecil County Waits For Medical Cannabis Announcement

A Cecil Whig article (2016-08-15) reported that Cecil County is waiting to see if the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission will include the County when the Commission announces which applicants will receive grower and processor licenses later today. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Commission received 146 grower applications, 124 processor applications, and 811 dispensary applications. State law allows the Commission to issue up to 15 grower licenses, an unlimited number of processor licenses, and up to two dispensary licenses in each of the state’s 47 senatorial districts (so up to 94 total). The Whig article stated that Cecil County has received three specific grower applications but that some grower applicants did not specify where they would locate. From the article:

According to a Washington Post analysis of applicants to the state commission, at least three of the 144 grower applicants have specifically stated plans to locate in Cecil County, including Citiva Maryland LLC, led by a former Syracuse, N.Y., police chief who serves on a prescription drug abuse advisory task force; LMS Wellness BLLC, whose security director, King Wilson White Jr., was once a Baltimore narcotics detective; and Pharmhouse LLC, whose chief executive Rohan Malhotra is a former Drexel law student.

Numerous other applicants did not specify where they planned to locate in the state, meaning Cecil County has a much bigger potential stake in the financial investments by such operations. At least two applicants that did not specify — The Clinic Maryland LLC and Freestate Wellness LLC — met with county leaders prior to submitting their paperwork to discuss possible placements.

The article noted that the County did zone growing facilities in agricultural areas and processing facilities in industrial areas and expressed general support for them:

The Cecil County Council sent a generic letter to the state licensing commission informing them the county has proper zoning in place for these operations and would welcome them to the county. County officials said the applicants they met with included a mixture of local and out-of-state prospects with most seeking a facility that would grow and process medical marijuana. They discussed locations around the county, estimated they could create between 30 and 50 jobs and none asked for government concessions.

The article also discussed the experience of former Cecil County Sheriff Barry Janney, who became the security head for True Health Chesapeake LLC. True Health has applied for a growing facility in Harford County:

Janney, who actively testified against the decriminalization of marijuana as the county’s top law enforcement officer, said he remains against the legalization of pot, but has come to recognize its benefits as a prescription drug.

“I’m not for recreational, but I do support medical,” he said. “I knew people who were dying of cancer and this was something they could have used to ease their pain. And there’s other instances where it can treat epileptic seizures in children.”

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Medical Cannabis

Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission Website

Somerset County Enacts Stricter Poultry House Rules

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-08-11) reported that the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners have enacted stronger setback and space rules for poultry houses after local residents expressed concerns over noise and smells. From the article:

County Commissioners on Tuesday adopted an ordinance that calls for the minimum space between chicken houses and residences to be doubled from 200 feet to 400 feet.

The ordinance also calls for buffers, such as plants, around poultry houses to further block the view, sediment in the air, and odor. …
Bill Satterfield with Delmarva Poultry Industry, the region’s trade group, said he thinks the new rules are “reasonable” and “workable.”

The article also noted that the new requirements will take place October 1.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage

Challenges Accommodating Bikes On Suburban Roadways

On today’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU Radio, Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro engaged in a conversation on bicycle lanes and safety, as part of roadway planning and priorities. “It’s getting to be such a priority across our region,” said the Council Member.

Listed online to hear the broadcast.

From the WAMU website description:

Both the Matthew Henson Trail and Veirs Mill Road are major thoroughfares. One is for bikes and pedestrians and the other for cars and buses. So when they meet in a Silver Spring creek valley, the results can be dangerous. The death of a cyclist last year was the was the most recent in a string of incidents at the treacherous intersection. We talk with local officials about how to best balance the needs of cars and bikes when designing suburban roads and trails.


Nancy Navarro Montgomery County Council (D-District 4)
Cedric Ward Director, Office of Traffic and Safety, Maryland State Highway Administration

Bicycle and pedestrian safety and accommodation is also a topic during MACo’s upcoming Summer Conference:



Room 201 (update is open to all—Thursday lunch ticket required to eat lunch) The MD Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee has increased direct involvement with county governments. A panel will discuss highlights of state and county best practices, including tourist promotion, commuting, and safety.

Speakers: Eric Brenner, Chair, Maryland Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee; and Karyn McAlister AICP, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager, Prince George’s County

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Tesla and SolarCity Merge To Solve Sustainable Energy Problem

Electric and autonomous car maker Tesla and leading rooftop solar installer SolarCity announced Monday that they have agreed to a $ 2.6 billion merger, moving to create a company that combines household renewable energy, battery storage and cars that are able to run on it, reports the Washington Post. Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and also the chairman of SolarCity, stated,

This is really all part of solving the sustainable energy problem. That’s why we’re all doing this, is to try to accelerate the advent of a sustainable energy world, and I think this is an important step in that direction.

The Tesla Model S Sedan features an autopilot option that members of Maryland’s Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Working Group tried out on their meeting on May 16.

Learn more about autonomous vehicles at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference panel: Are We There Yet? Autonomous Vehicles and the Future of Transportation.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Autonomous Vehicles

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


Sustainable Growth Commission Takes On TDRs and APFOs At July Meeting

logo of Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission met in Denton, Maryland, on 2016-07-25 to review a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) report released by the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the research paper on the future of sustainable farming and forestry in the state. As previously reported on Conduit Street, earlier this year MDP convened a committee that reviewed TDR programs within Maryland and offered a variety of recommendations and best practices to improve their effectiveness. The sustainable farming and forestry report was supported by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology.

The TDR report found four essential factors for the long-term success of a TDR program, including: (1) incentives to sell development rights; (2) incentives should exist in receiving zones; (3) TDRs should be the predominant option for bonus density; and (4) ideally, a TDR program should move development rights from rural to growth areas. The report also offered a series of options counties could take to work with receiving zones in or out of municipalities to improve the chance their chance of success.

The farming and forestry survey provided an overview of the agricultural and forestry sectors and made several conclusions:

  • Poultry/grains, nursery/horticulture, and emerging local/direct market opportunities were positive points for Maryland agriculture
  • Industrial livestock (including dairy) and large-scale commodities are struggling in a fragmented agricultural landscape.
  • While actually having more standing timber today than in 1914, the harvestable supply is land locked and fragmented.
  • Harvest challenges posed by owners, neighbors, and sediment and erosion control rules, as well as lack of market access and industry incentives are currently limiting factors for forestry.

The Commission also discussed revitalizing its Adequate Public Facilities (APFO) Workgroup and heard reports from its Reinvest Maryland, Rural Economies, and Education Workgroups. The APFO Workgroup has been in existence for several years but has not really been active for some time. The Workgroup will review the reports counties and municipalities are required to file regarding the impact their APFOs have on development.

Caroline County Commissioners Daniel Franklin, Larry Porter, and Wilbur Levengood Jr. and Denton Mayor Abigail McNinch welcomed Commission members to the county. Commission members also heard overview presentations from County and Denton staff. Commission members were also offered a walking tour of downtown Denton to view its redevelopment efforts prior to the start of the meeting. Maryland Delegate Jefferson Ghrist also attended the meeting.

The Commission’s next meeting will be on September 26 in Havre de Grace.

Useful Links

Sustainable Growth Commission Website

MDP TDR Committee Report

Caroline County Government Website

Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology Website


Land Use Planning in a Virtual World at #MACoCon

Learn about how new rendering and mapping technology can assist in land planning and development projects, the benefits of having an online permitting system, and the challenges posed by new “virtual” businesses, such as AirBnB, at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference.

Land Use in a Virtual World


Technology continues to profoundly shape how county land use and building project decisions are made. Proposed projects can be visualized in unprecedented detail through the use of 3D rendering and paperless plan review systems can increase efficiencies and reduce costs. However, the rise of virtual businesses, such as AirBnB, can pose challenges to traditional permitting systems and may require new and innovative approaches. Panelists will discuss these new tools and challenges and provide examples of their use.


  • James Cannistra, Prince George’s County Division Chief, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission
  • Anthony Puzzo, Business Development Manager, State and Local Government Team, ESRI

Moderator: The Honorable Stephen Lafferty, Maryland House of Delegates

Date & Time: Friday, August 19, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: