Planning Commission & Board of Appeals Training Kicks Off 2017 #MACoCon

Lower Eastern Shore Regional Planner Keith Lackie discusses PFAs

The Maryland Department of Planning kicked off the 2017 MACo Summer Conference on 2017-08-16 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, engaging with elected officials and the public, 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.

Maryland Department of Planning staff, including Assistant Secretary for Operations Robert McCord, Lower Eastern Shore Regional Planner Keith Lackie, and Director of Planning Coordination Chuck Boyd walked attendees through the course materials.

Useful Links

Planning Commission/Board of Appeals Training Course Webpage

Work Begins on First Sports and Recreation “Smart City” in the Nation

Source: Johnson Controls

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2017-08-09) reported that work is under way on the first sports and entertainment “smart city” in the nation. Johnson Controls has started development on the Hall of Fame Village LLC at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and will be the largest construction project in the state. Johnson Controls is working in conjunction with the Hall of Fame and Industrial Reality Group. According to the article, the project began in 2016 and the village is expected to open in 2020 (for the National Football Leagues 100th anniversary) with final build-out occurring by 2040. The development is estimated to cost $700 million and will generate $15.3 billion in new revenue over a 25-year period. From the article:

A professional services contract calls for Johnson Controls’ products, services and solutions to be used within the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, including the museum. This will provide for the creation of a showcase “smart city” with the company providing a suite of building management systems to assure “world-class” environments and yield significant operational cost savings over the life of the agreement, according to the partners. …

Just as important are the smart technologies that will bring the village to life — technologies related to heating and cooling, fire and security, lighting, the fan experience and scoreboard, and a building- and campus-wide operating system. The operating system will allow window shades to adjust according to the movement of the sun, lights to dim as more natural light enters rooms, employees to control cubicle temperature and security cameras to capture faces of people entering and exiting buildings as identification badges appear on monitoring screens.

“Our innovative, integrated, technologies will provide the right combination of safety and security at the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village in an environment that demonstrates how we connect ‘cities’ that run smartly and reliably,” said Kim Metcalf-Kupres, vice president and chief marketing officer, Johnson Controls.

The project will include the following facilities: (1) Hall of Fame Museum; (2) Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium; (3) Black College Football Hall of Fame; (4) National Youth Football and Sports Complex; (5) 25,000 square-foot four-star hotel and conference center; (6) Hall of Fame Promenade (a mixed-use restaurant, retail, and residential area); (7) The Center for EXCELLENCE (a coaches university); (8) performance center; (9) player care center; and (10) Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Experience (a $120 million virtual reality experience and waterpark).

Useful Links

Hall of Fame Village Website

PALS Program Ready to Help Counties on Land Use, Transportation, & Economic Development Issues

Announcement Photo for PALS/Montgomery Parks Partnership (Source: PALS Program)

The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program has assisted with several counties and municipalities to solve a variety of land use, transportation, environmental, and economic development challenges. Most recently, PALS concluded a successful partnership with Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis and for the 2017/2018 academic year will be partnering with Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and for Montgomery Parks within the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

PALS is a low-cost assistance program that leverages University of Maryland (UMD) graduate and undergraduate students to produce “real world” solutions for local governments. The program is administered by the National Center for Smart Growth at UMD, College Park. UMD faculty and students from across campus are tasked with assisting on issues identified by a partnering local government. The program is somewhat scalable, and is able to effectively respond to the needs of large and small local governments. PALS has previously worked with the City of Frederick, College Park, Howard County, and the Southwest Partnership in Baltimore City.

In tackling the challenges posed by Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis, PALS leverage the work of 430 students, faculty from 11 schools across UMD, and 30 dedicated courses. Projects ranged from very stirring video journalism projects covering the impacts of the heroin epidemic in the County to design solutions to help absorb coastal storm surges and address sea level rise in the Annapolis historic waterfront.

PALS is currently designing its 2017/2018 academic year syllabus to link faculty and classes to:

  • 5 projects for the Prince George’s County Department of Environment
  • 5 projects for departments within Montgomery County, and
  • approximately 15 projects for the Montgomery Parks within the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.

The projects already matched with faculty and courses include: (1) how does the park of the future operate and what activities will be provided; revamping and streamlining the public procurement process; (2) standardizing specifications for the use of grey water in the parks; (3) improving recycling rates across all Prince George’s County neighborhoods; (4) an identification of potential sites for an animal shelter in the northern part of Prince George’s County; (5) a measurement of the economic impacts of community celebrations in downtown Silver Spring; and (6) creating a model for the maintenance of storm water management facilities in Montgomery County.

More information about PALS and the past local government projects is available at or by contacting Kim Fisher at 301.405.4481 or

Useful Links

PALS Webpage

Prior Conduit Street PALS Coverage

Frustrated U.S. Senators Press Feds On FBI Headquarters Plan

A month after federal decision-makers scrapped the government’s decade-long plan to close the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s deteriorating headquarters in downtown Washington and replace it with a new building in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, U.S. Senators from both parties yesterday expressed frustration at officials from the General Services Administration. Senators lamented that millions of dollars had been wasted on the failed effort, and complained that they were blindsided by the decision.

The General Services Administration, the government’s landlord, has been working with the FBI for more than a decade on a plan to trade away the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, D.C. to a developer. In return, the developer would be responsible for the majority of the costs to develop a new headquarters on a modern site.

After spending more than $20 million on its plan, which would have relocated the FBI to Landover, Md., Greenbelt, Md., or Springfield, Va., the General Services Administration said it was canceling the project because Congress had not appropriated enough funds.

According to The Washington Post,

No senator appeared more frustrated by the process than Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the state that would be home to two of the proposed sites. Cardin said the GSA had received seven viable development plans from three developers and pointed out that Congress had granted the agency approval to pick a new headquarters location. Congress has already appropriated more than $800 million toward construction and approved the selling of the Hoover Building.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to move this quicker than saying it’s another four, five or six years to get this done,” Cardin said, “because the FBI can’t wait and the taxpayers demand that we be more efficient than this.”

Officials from Maryland and Virginia have competed for years to land the new headquarters. But the rest of Congress had repeatedly expressed concern with the huge price tag.

The project would have had a significant economic impact on Maryland and, more specifically, Prince George’s County, where two potential sites were being considered. The FBI has about 11,000 employees, which would have made it one of Maryland’s largest employers.

State and Prince George’s County officials had spent years trying to convince the FBI to relocate. The University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore planned to launch a joint national security academy. Gov. Larry Hogan pledged $317 million in infrastructure and traffic improvements to accommodate a new headquarters in Greenbelt and $255 million for a Landover site.

Read the full article for more information.

House Workgroup “Digs In” To Study Septic System Policies

A House Environment and Transportation Committee Workgroup comprising members of the Subcommittee on the Environment and Committee Chair Kumar Barve held a briefing on July 26 to discuss on-site sewage disposal systems, including septic systems. Following the defeat of legislation during the 2017 Session (HB 281/SB 266) that would have reinstated a requirement to use best available technology for nitrogen removal (BAT) septic systems for all new construction everywhere in the state, the Committee agreed to discuss the issue during the interim. Currently, BAT septic systems are required for new homes and replacement septic systems within the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area. Delegate Stephen Lafferty is chair of the Workgroup.

The Workgroup is considering:

  • the amount of pollution from septic systems, and whether there is a need to put any more emphasis on reducing pollution from septic systems;
  • the impact of expanding the use of BAT systems outside of the Critical Area, and what factors might be considered for using BAT in such areas (such as proximity to nitrogen-impaired waterways, soil types and conditions, etc.);
  • whether monies from the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) are being prioritized appropriately to address pollution from septic systems;
  • potential requirements on the operation, maintenance, and pump-outs of conventional septic systems; and
  • whether each county is achieving its Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load and Watershed Implementation Plan goals for pollution from septic systems.

Stakeholders who testified at the all-afternoon briefing included: (1) the Maryland Department of the Environment; (2) the Maryland Onsite Wastewater Professionals Association (MOWPA); (3) BAT septic system manufacturers and installers; (4) the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; (5) 1000 Friends of Maryland; (6) Clean Water Action; (7) Chester River Association; (8) Maryland Building Industry Association; (9) Maryland Association of Realtors; and (10) Maryland Farm Bureau.

MACo and the Maryland Conference of Local Environmental Health Directors also testified as a joint panel. Speakers included: (1) MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp; (2) Conference President and Baltimore County Ground Water Management, Environmental Protection and Sustainability Manager Kevin Koepenick; (3) Worcester County Director of Environmental Programs Robert Mitchell; and (4) Carroll County Environmental Health Director Leigh Broderick.

The MACo and the Environmental Health Directors  testimony include four key points, consistent with MACo’s longstanding position on the issue:

  1. No mandatory expansion of BAT Septic Systems Beyond the Critical Area
  2. Need to incentivize maintenance and streamline enforcement for the operation and maintenance of BAT septic systems
  3. Greater flexibility for using BRF monies for connecting septic systems to public sewer
  4. Need further study on the effectiveness of BAT septic systems and State and local staffing needs

From MACo’s written testimony:

BAT septic systems can reduce nitrogen emissions over conventional septic systems, but the amount of reduction is contingent on the local hydrologic and geologic conditions where the BAT system is being installed. The usage of BAT systems makes sense within the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area and for specific sites determined by the county or health department to require BAT.

However, MACo and the Conference oppose any mandatory expansion of BAT septic systems beyond the critical area. A broad-based BAT septic system mandate is not: (1) supported by science; (2) cost-effective; and (3) necessarily the best method to address local water quality and the small amount of nitrogen that BAT systems would allegedly reduce.

Both MACo and the Conference would oppose any mandatory O&M inspection or enforcement requirements placed on county governments. However, MACo and the Conference could potentially support statutory or regulatory changes that would incentivize O&M compliance or streamline the enforcement process. An optional property tax credit for compliant BAT systems could help with enforcement. Providing for a simple fine in lieu of a criminal misdemeanor could also potentially resolve compliance issues.

MACo and the Conference support having greater flexibility to use Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) monies to connect properties with septic systems to public sewer where practicable. Many counties have utilized or considered utilizing BRF monies for this purpose and the environmental and public health benefits are substantial.

A successful BAT septic program needs infrastructure, staffing, and reasonable incentives/sanctions to encourage compliance. What would it realistically take to stay on top of the septic BAT program? Answers to this question might be learned by identifying and then studying other jurisdictions that are successfully addressing this issue

The Workgroup has expressed its intention to meet at least one more time on these topics before the 2018 session and will likely propose some mix of legislative and policy recommendations.

Useful Links

HB 281 / SB 266 of 2017

MACo/Environmental Health Director Testimony to Workgroup

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of BAT Septic System Issues

Residents, Community Groups Remain Vocal on Medical Cannabis Dispensary Locations

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-07-27) reported that residents and community groups continue to express concerns about the location of medical cannabis dispensaries and highlighted some of the zoning issues local governments must confront when deciding where to site the facilities. The article indicated that county residents and elected officials continue to grapple with the proper location for medical cannabis dispensaries, with ongoing debates taking place in Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Queen Anne’s Counties. The article noted that most residents are okay with dispensaries but question whether they should be located within residential areas instead of commercial areas.

Advocates argued a lack of education on the issue is one of primary reasons dispensary locations are being challenged. But some community representatives challenged this assertion:

Darrell Carrington, a cannabis lobbyist with Greenwill Consulting Group, blamed the opposition on fears of the unknown.

“Because it’s new, people are suspect,” Carrington said. He said dispensaries will be tightly regulated by the state, with “more security measures built into this program than you would ever imagine.” …

Peggy Winchester is president of the [Baltimore County] South Perry Hall Boulevard Improvement Association. [In the Association’s] neighborhood, she said, “the majority of the the people that I have spoken to have no problem with medical marijuana. They just don’t think it should be dispensed in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

An additional concern raised in the article is the lack of notice regarding the address of a proposed dispensary prior to its approval by the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. The article reiterated that dispensaries are limited to no more than two in each of the State’s 47 Senatorial districts.

Frederick Asks PSC to Apply New County Solar Ordinance to LeGore Bridge Project

A Frederick News-Post article (2017-07-24) reported that attorneys for Frederick County have requested the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to reopen its consideration for a utility scale solar project based on a new County solar ordinance that was passed in May. The ordinance would limit solar projects to 75 acres or less.  Representatives for the proposed 20-megawatt/170-acre LeGore Bridge Solar Center on Clyde Young Road oppose the request, arguing that the project was already granted a special exception by the County’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The project has not yet received a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the PSC.  From the article:

Senior Assistant County Attorney Wendy S. Kearney wrote that the LeGore Bridge Solar Center received special exception approval “under the shadow of an Executive Order” that temporarily halted new solar array development, and with the caveat that any approval they received could be subject to new legislation.

Public Utility Law Judge Robert H. McGowan reopened the case for the limited purpose of allowing the county to file a brief addressing three issues: the impact of the ordinance on the project, whether an earlier special exception was still valid, and what options the project has for speedy approval under the new ordinance.

On Friday, the county filed a five-page brief stating that they believe the ordinance passed by the County Council applies to the project because it did not meet grandfathering provisions or the state’s legal standard for vested development rights.  …

The county asked the judge to delay a final decision on the project until the new process for floating zone approval can begin, or acknowledge in any final decision that the project will need county approval to proceed.

Attorneys for the project are expected to file a response later this week.

The article also noted that the project developer, Coronal Energy, previously opposed the County ordinance and also sought language to grandfather the LeGore Bridge and one other project. A solar project by another developer that had received its CPCN prior to the adoption of the ordinance is currently under construction.

Congressional Amendment May Imperil Maryland Offshore Wind Project

A proposal that was approved by a U.S. House committee calls for Maryland’s two offshore wind projects to inch farther away from the coast, a move one of the developers said would jeopardize the entire effort.

The Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a measure, sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican whose district includes the Eastern Shore, that requires the towering turbines to be located at least 24 miles from shore.

According to Delmarvanow,

The legislation comes after Ocean City officials protested that views of the turbines from its beaches and coastal condominiums would spoil the resort’s tourism industry.

“This will make it so when you go to Ocean City, Maryland, you don’t have red blinking lights on the horizon,” Harris told the committee. He cited a North Carolina State University survey in which 54 percent of respondents said they would be unwilling to stay wherever turbines are visible.

The Harris amendment bars federal funding from being spent on government reviews of wind projects built within 24 miles of Maryland’s shoreline. Any construction that takes place farther out to sea would be unaffected.

Harris said the measure would delay, not kill, the projects. The congressman pointed to a project off Virginia Beach that is going up 27 miles off the coast.

But one of the developers in Maryland promptly disagreed with that assessment.

Since its lease area is shaped like a triangle, U.S. Wind Inc. would be left with only enough room for one turbine, said Paul Rich, the company’s director for project development, in an interview.

“This is not helpful,” Rich said. “This stops a process before it’s even begun. It’s totally at odds with his constituency.”

U.S. Wind, Inc. has received enough renewable energy credits to build 62 turbines, which would rise 17 miles offshore. The company, a subsidiary of the Italian constructing firm Toto Holdings SpA, had moved the site back from 12 miles in response to Ocean City’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Skipjack Offshore Energy LLC is looking to construct 15 turbines in an area 17-21 miles off the coast at a cost of $720 million.

A representative of the Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind Holdings LLC firm couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The amendment drew a rebuke from unlikely allies: manufacturing businesses and environmentalists.

Together, the projects are expected to generate more than $1.8 billion of in-state spending as well as 9,700 new direct and indirect jobs, the Maryland Public Service Commission estimates. The amendment imperils that potential economic boost, said Mike Dunn, president and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

“We think there are enormous economic development and job opportunities for the Lower Shore via the offshore wind,” Dunn said.

For her part, Anne Havemann, general counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said she was “very frustrated” by the amendment. The legislation “tries to circumvent” six years of public hearings and government reviews that have gone into the effort, she said.

Individually, the projects are larger than the only offshore U.S. wind farm currently in operation: a five-turbine facility off Rhode Island, also developed by Deepwater.

U.S. Wind plans to construct future phases at the Maryland offshore site, raising the number of turbines to up to 187. That would produce enough power for more than 500,000 homes, the company said.

Read the full article for more information.

Phil Hager Named As New Anne Arundel Planning & Zoning Officer






Phil Hager (Source: Carroll County Government)

An Anne Arundel County news release (2017-07-11) announced that Phil Hager will become Anne Arundel County’s new Planning and Zoning Officer starting July 31. Hager replaces former long-serving Planning and Zoning Officer Larry Tom, who retired several weeks ago. From the news release:

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh today announced the appointment of Phil Hager as Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning Officer.

“As we embark on crafting the next General Development Plan, Phil Hager will be instrumental in making sure our County grows responsibly,” said Schuh. “I am excited Phil has agreed to bring his extensive planning experience to Anne Arundel County as we chart the course for the future.”

In 2012, Mr. Hager was appointed Director of Carroll County’s Department of Land Use, Planning & Development. He later became Director of the Department of Planning when the county departments were reorganized. In those roles, he managed and directed comprehensive planning activities such as comprehensive plan development and implementation, water & sewer infrastructure planning, economic development planning, transportation planning and public facility planning.  Since 2015, Hager also has served as Carroll County’s Legislative Liaison and Director of Legislative Affairs.

From 2005 to 2012, Mr. Hager served as Executive Director of Allegany County’s Planning & Zoning Commission. In that role, he managed all aspects of County-wide Comprehensive Planning, including Natural Resources, Transportation, Land Use, Zoning, Subdivision, Economic Development, Historic and Cultural Preservation, Agricultural, and Recreation Planning.

“The Anne Arundel County Department of Planning and Zoning has a well-deserved reputation for excellence and I am very fortunate to have been selected to become part of this tremendous organization,” said Hager.  “I am extremely excited by the prospect of pursuing my career in Anne Arundel County.  The challenges and opportunities are incredible and I am looking forward to becoming part of this special team.”

Environmental Justice and Land Use Discussion at #MACoCon

Join in a discussion on environmental justice, land use, and planning decisions at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference.

Environmental Justice and County Land Use: Finding the Win-Win Scenario


Join members of the Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities Commission for an open and candid discussion on how local land use planning and environmental justice concerns do not have to be mutually exclusive. Explore how it is possible to generate a “win-win” scenario that addresses long range growth and development needs as well as the health and welfare needs of vulnerable and at-risk populations. Commission members are seeking county input for the development of practical and effective environmental justice policies that will make a positive difference for local governments and their citizens.


  • Rebecca Rehr, Commissioner, Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, and Public Policy and Advocacy Manager, Maryland Environmental Health Network
  • Dick Fairbanks, Commissioner, Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, and Vice President, Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park

Participating Moderator: Philip Hager, President, Maryland Association of County Planning Officials

Date & Time: Thursday, August 17, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: