State Development Plan Perspectives Offered at #MACoCon

County officials received and update on the pending State Development Plan on December 7 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “Planning Ahead: Preparing for the New State Development Plan” and was moderated by Wicomico County Council Member Matthew Holloway.

From Left to Right: John Campagna, Gerrit Knaap, Council Member Matt Holloway, and Special Secretary Wendi Peters

Maryland Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters stated that the new State Development Plan, called “A Better Maryland,” would be built on local comprehensive plans and focus on: (1) identifying local priorities; (2) improving communication between state agencies; and (3) assessing information needs at both the state and local levels. Peters noted that as part of the plan development process, other planning tools, such as the Maryland Transportation Plan and infrastructure funding, would also be reviewed for potential changes. Peters also provided an update on the listening session that are occurring in each county and stressed that the Maryland Department of Planning would also be meeting with regional councils and other stakeholders as well.

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education Director Gerrit Knaap noted that only about a half-dozen states attempt a statewide plan and that statewide planning can be a useful exercise. Knaap stated that PlanMaryland, the previous and now rescinded State Development Plan, did not take into account planning trends occurring in Europe, which included planning becoming more decentralized from the state/nation level and more invested at a regional level. There was also a movement towards incentives and away from regulations to encourage local compliance with state/national goals. Knaap urged that “A Better Maryland” should be an amalgamation of local plans and Maryland can then flag areas of contention and conflict (similar to  what Maryland does for Priority Funding Areas). Knaap noted that the state can then layer other issues (transportation, enviornemntal, etc.) on top of the local “base layer.”

1000 Friends of Maryland Executive Director John Campagna stated that A Better Maryland needed three key components: (1) a partnership committment by the State; (2) solid metrics; and (3) inclusion of all stakeholders in the development process. Campagna stressed that all voices needed to be heard – urban, rural, and suburban.

Maryland’s Climate Change Strategy Discussed at 2017 Winter #MACoCon

Representatives from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) discussed the the current and future status of climate change efforts in Maryland at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The  panel was called “Rising Tides: Charting Maryland’s New Climate Change Path” and was moderated by MACo Legal & Policy Counsel Les Knapp.

From Left to Right: Secretary Ben Grumbles and Mike Powell

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Co-Chair and Gordon Feinblatt LLC Member Michael Powell provided the background of the MCCC. Powell noted that in 2012, Maryland adopted a greenhouse gas

reduction goal of 25% of 2006 emissions by 2020 and recently adopted a new goal of a 40% reduction by 2030. The draft action plan for the new 40% goal is due in 2018. Powell stated that Maryland’s goals are basically same as those found in the Paris Accords and that the state is on track to meet the 2020 goal. Powell noted that if current trends undertaken for the 2020 goal continue and no federal climate change programs are repealed, then the state will also be close to meeting the 2030 goal.

Powell assumed that electric vehicles, a green energy grid, healthy soils, zero waste efforts, and transportation improvements would all be part of the State’s new plan for the 2030 goal. Powell also noted that there were some other proposals not currently in the plan but would be reviewed, including: a carbon Tax, including greenhouse gas emissions in all governing decisions, requiring 2% incremental energy efficiency improvements, increasing Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), tighter caps under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), restricting methane emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, a “vehicle miles traveled” tax, adoption of electric school buses, strengthening building codes, prohibiting new landfill capacity after 2019, increasing local government recycling rates to 60%, and requiring more aggressive compact development.

Powell noted that Maryland did not have to undertake all of these policies and could be selective. Powell also stressed the importance of tracking economic impacts stemming from these policies.

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Working Group Co-Chair and Chesapeake Climate Action Network Executive Director Mike Tidwell argued that  time is running out and that both the state and local governments must be aggressive in responding to climate change. Tidwell cited extreme weather examples and a projected 6-9 foot sea level rise by 2100.

From Left to Right: Mike Tidwell and Secretary Ben Grumbles

Tidwell stressed the need to adopt renewable energy within 15 years and keep 80% of all know reserves of fossil fuels in the ground. Tidwell disagreed with Powell’s assessment that the state is on track to meet the 2030 goal. Tidwell also complimented Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on his support for the 2030 goal, the 2017 EMPOWER Act, and the recently enacted ban on natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Maryland. Tidwell criticized Hogan for his recent veto of legislation that increased the RPS to 25%.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment and Commission Chair Benjamin Grumbles described how the MCCC has taken a consensus-based approach to the new plan. Regarding mitigation, Grumbles noted that RGGI and better interstate cooperation on electric vehicles and transportation issues will be critical. Regarding adaptation, Grumbles stressed that Maryland is at risk from both sea level rise and subsidence and needs to strengthen our infrastructure to make it more resilient and avoid locating it in severely affected areas. Grumbles state that this must be done collaboratively with the counties and not “be dictated from the top down.” Finally, Grumbles briefly touched on how climate change will factor into the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

Washington County Prepares for Next Generation 9-1-1

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) issues are of top concern for county governments officials seeking to improve and enhance their handling of emergency calls from cell phone users.

NG911 will enable the public to make voice, text, or video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks. Linked call centers will also be able to share resources like GIS (Geographic Information System) databases rather than each having to purchase their own. These capabilities can make public safety both more effective and more responsive.

While the technology to implement NG911 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through, including uniform specifications, the process of transition, governance, and funding. In Washington County, local government officials are in the process of updating addresses and reviewing geographic boundaries, all in an effort to prepare for NG911.

According to Herald-Mail Media,

Local planning is part of a nationwide effort to bring 911 up to the “next level of technology,” said Bud Gudmundson, the county’s GIS manager.

GIS coordinates will provide more accurate location information, including vertical coordinates. Location information won’t have to be tied to an actual address. That will help dispatchers identify locations whether someone is on the side of a road or in a field, which will help with search-and-rescue efforts, Fischer said.

Local officials are wrestling with the problem of the boundary between Washington and Frederick counties for a few reasons.

The boundary line is along South Mountain and hasn’t been surveyed since 1824, Gudmundson said. There are few, if any, markers along the line showing that boundary.

Another issue: Some addresses will need to be corrected.

The county’s planning department is the addressing authority for unincorporated areas in the county. Hagerstown handles its addressing and the smaller towns handle theirs.

Hagerstown has been good about checking with the county about addresses and Gudmondson said he doesn’t foresee the county taking over what the city is doing.

However, the county is going to ask the smaller towns if the county can take over addressing authority for them, for the “sake of consistency and accuracy.”

MACo has adopted advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 systems as one of four 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems

Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Click here to learn more about MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

Broadband Throughout the Land at #MACoCon

In today’s world, internet connectivity is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity. Broadband is critical to the future of our economy, education, and safety. Many Marylanders have either limited or no access to broadband, creating a gap in the ability of some communities to participate in the global economy. In order to address the service gap, counties are employing new and innovative solutions.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Broadband Throughout the Land” attendees learned about the challenges and best practices associated with expanding broadband access in Maryland.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County, discussed broadband in Carroll County, including dark fiber networks, client bases, and relationships with providers and customers. Mr. Ripper also discussed best practices for counties looking to set up contracts for broadband service.

James D. McCormick Jr., CIO, Caroline County, talked about broadband from a rural perspective, including the lack of access to existing infrastructure. Mr. McCormick also described the different options for delivering broadband service, such as aerial, boring, and conduit.

Victor Tervala, Chief Solicitor, General Counsel Division, Law Dept., Baltimore City discussed some of the challenges of expanding broadband access in Baltimore City. Mr. Tervala also talked about potential issues counties could face regarding deregulation for broadband providers.

The session was moderated by Delegate Johnny Mautz and was held on Wednesday, December 6. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #6 – Solar, Solar… Everywhere?

Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires that renewable sources generate specified percentages of Maryland’s electricity supply each year, increasing to 25% by 2020, including 2.5% from solar energy.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Les Knapp discuss the relationship between Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and local governments.

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:

Preview the 2018 Session “Big Picture”

A compilation of Issue Papers previews major fiscal and policy issues facing the General Assembly in the year ahead. This resource is a handy guide to the top issues that your legislators will be tackling in the year ahead – a great preparation document for county officials in advance of meetings with their local Delegations.

Developed by the Department of Legislative Services, the 2018 Issue Papers are an annual staple for the Annapolis policy-inclined population. They are also a great resource for county officials tracking specific issues, or interested in the state budget and other top-tier topics.

Here are a few direct links to hot topics that may interest counties:

Operating Budget

Transportation Trust Fund

Pension Issues

Capital Budget and Debt

Education Aid and Maintenance of Effort

School Construction

Health Care Reform

Broadband Access

Public Safety

Environmental Issues

Aid to Local Governments

9-1-1 Funding and Modernization

Caroline County Hosts Public Session on Solar Energy Siting

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp was part of a panel that responded to public questions on the siting of large solar facilities at a Caroline County Public Information Session on November 28, 2017. The County held the well-attended session to address general public concerns and questions related to utility scale solar. Currently, the County is in the midst of considering a proposed zoning ordinance for solar facilities.

Besides Knapp, other panelists included representatives from the solar development industry, Maryland Public Service Commission, Maryland Power Plant Research Program, and the Caroline County planning and legal departments. The County Commissioners were also in attendance.

Knapp briefly discussed legislation ( HB 1350) passed during the 2017 Session that gave local governments a greater voice in where utility scale solar facilities should be located within their boundaries. The legislation was a MACo Legislative Initiative. Knapp noted that local authority was not absolute and that the PSC retained the right to preempt local government decisions. Knapp also covered factors that a local government should consider when developing a solar ordinance in order to minimize the likelihood of a PSC preemption and discussed how other counties have addressed solar siting.

Audience members questioned the solar application and approval process at both the state and local levels, how income and property taxes are managed for solar projects, the potential economic benefits and drawbacks of solar projects, actions taken by other counties regarding solar projects, vegetation and setback requirements, how grid capacity works, and who is responsible for dismantling a solar project that has reached the end of its useful life.

Earlier in 2017, the Caroline County Commissioners enacted a 6-month moratorium on utility scale solar development in the County while developing a new zoning ordinance that would cover the siting solar facilities. The moratorium was extended an additional two months until December 31 to allow extra time to finalize the ordinance. The Commissioners plan to formally discuss and potentially take action on the proposed ordinance  in December.

The public information session was held in Denton, Maryland, and ran from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Public Information Session Agenda

MACo Solar Presentation

HB 1350 of 2017

Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition (USSEC) of Maryland Handout

Hear more about land use issues, including climate change and the pending State Development Plan, at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference, December 6-8, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

 

Cecil Residents Concerned Over Mandatory Water & Sewer Connections

Cecil Guardian article (2017-11-16) reported that some Cecil residents expressed concern at a November 14 public hearing over mandatory hookups to the County’s public water and sewer system. The County is looking at expanding its sewer within the county’s growth corridor and has proposed connection rules based on “economic growth considerations” instead of just public health issues. Subject to certain narrow exceptions, Maryland law requires properties next to water and sewer lines to connect. The article noted that the Cecil County Director of Public Works Scott Flanigan oversaw the public hearing. Flanigan was joined by the county Director of Administration Al Wein and Health Department Director of Environmental Services Fred von Staden. From the article:

If the area has public health concerns about septic tank failures, connections to public utilities would be have to be made by homeowners quickly. But in the case of economic development pipelines, people could possibly take 20 years or more to connect. For those who have to connect and are short on finances, the county is working out a finance plan for the major facilities fee of $6,000. This fee is the cost to connect into county sewer lines. It does not cover the actual work which could approach $20,000 for running lines into the house and breaking up the existing septic tank and filling the void with stone. …

People wanted to know why the county would charge any interest where connections were forced. They also believed that fixed rate loans should be made available for homeowners as well as business people planning apartment complexes.

There were questions about a list of triggering events that would force the connection to public sewers. This includes major additions to a house, sale of the house and failure of the septic systems. While the county administration officials appeared to say that minor repairs of septic systems, such as a cracked lid, would be okay, von Staden said the health department could not permit any work on a septic system if it is on a property under the state mandate to connect to public sewage.

The article noted that the current proposed sewer expansion would affect less than 50 homeowners but that other residents who could be affected by future expansions also attended the hearing.

Ellicott City Perseveres Post-Flood, County Prepares for Future

A little over a year after a flood devastated Ellicott City, Howard County officials continue to build upon what they’ve learned and plan for the future disasters.

The Baltimore Sun reports on the process the county is taking and progress they are making, including updating the Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan to prepare for future floods:

[Mark] DeLuca [chief of the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services] updated residents on the four projects currently underway to build retention facilities and conveyance improvements in the watershed. The projects are the first wave of 18 project recommendations from the county’s hydrology and hydraulic study, completed this spring.

County officials are also updating emergency operations and community recovery plans, and implementing recommendations for improvement.

While the emergency operations plan is the county’s strategy for utilizing its resources immediately following a disaster like the 2016 flood, [Ryan] Miller [Director of Emergency Management] said the recovery plan picks up where the emergency plan leaves off, and includes strategies for bringing the community back to a “normal” state.

The article notes that officials plan to have the emergency plan finalized in the next few months and the recovery plan by the end of the year. Both plans include about 700 improvements for future responses.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Learn more about the Ellicott City post-flood recovery efforts at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference session, We’ve Got Your Back: Counties Collaborate

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Get Ready for “A Better Maryland” at #MACoCon

Get up to date on the status of A Better Maryland, the new State Development Plan, at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference.

Planning Ahead: Preparing for the New State Development Plan

Description

The Hogan Administration has announced the creation of a new State Development Plan – “A Better Maryland” – that will help manage growth and development throughout Maryland. As counties are key land use decision-makers, the Plan could have a significant effect on local planning and zoning policies. Consequently, counties need to be part of the Plan’s development process. Panelists will discuss the requirements and elements of the State Development Plan, the Plan’s development process and implementation timeline, and county recommendations regarding the Plan.

Speakers

  • Wendi Peters, Special Secretary of Smart Growth, Governor’s Executive Council
  • Gerrit Knaap, Director, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education
  • John Campagna, Executive Director, 1000 Friends of Maryland

Date & Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: