Climate Change Recommendations Provoke Robust Discussion by Mitigation Working Group

The Mitigation Working Group had a robust but respectful discussion on proposed climate change recommendations at its August 2, 2018, meeting, including proposals that would directly affect county governments. A cap and trade program for carbon emitted from transportation, the full electrification of the state’s school bus feet, mandatory energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings, upgrading the Forest Conservation Act, and ending the permitting of landfills and moving to zero waste are a few of the recommendations under consideration.

The Working Group is part of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and is tasked with producing recommendations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the state in order to achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2030. Maryland is general on track to meet a prior emission reduction goal of 25% by 2025. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp is the county representative on the Working Group. Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras is MACo’s representative on the Commission.

The proposed recommendations included a draft “straw-man” version prepared by the Maryland Department of the Environment and a series of additional recommendations submitted by various stakeholder groups. The Working Group is seeking consensus on as many recommendations as it can and will then focus on recommendations where there is majority support. The list of Mitigation Working Group recommendations contains numerous proposals that remain under discussion. The following recommendations would directly effect counties:

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan a section that is specifically focused on identifying and assessing longer-term greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. This section should explicitly address steps that can be taken to insure that proposed 40 by 30 programs and strategies are compatible with achieving zero net emissions in the 2050 to 2060 timeframe.

  • The Commission should urge MDE to include in the 40 by 30 plan strategies and programs that will insure that the state meets and accommodates its current EV goals and projections (60,000 EVs by 2020; 300,000 by 2025) with continued vigorous increase after 2025 that is compatible with longterm net zero emissions two to three decades after 2030. As part of this process, we further recommend that the Commission urge MDE to specifically assess the following strategies: setting a goal to fully electrify bus transport in Maryland by 2035, including aggressive targets for the rapid deployment of EV school buses, as well as provisions for low-interest financing.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to implement stricter building code and other energy efficiency upgrades, including the establishment of annual residential and commercial building retrofit targets (e.g. 100% commercial building compliance by 2040), the requirement that all new residential and commercial buildings be carbon neutral by 2030, and an expansion of government and utility supported efficient electric heating and cooling system policies and programs.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly to enact, by 2020, a sustainable agricultural land preservation law which permits/facilitates the deployment of joint renewable energy and regenerative agriculture development, in order to simultaneously maximize the reduction and sequestration of carbon emissions while improving soil health.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to require net forest and tree canopy gains in Maryland by 2025 through the enactment of various forest management and tree planting programs and initiatives; including a strengthened Forest Conservation Law.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact, by 2022, more aggressive and explicit compact development and sustainable growth incentive and management programs and regulations.

  • The Commission should urge the General Assembly and the Governor to enact the following zero waste policies: ending the permitting of solid waste landfill capacity by 2019; requiring large producers (more than 2 tons per month) of organic waste to compost or anaerobically digest all of their waste by 2020; and increase state government and local jurisdiction recycling rates to 60% by 2020 and 80% by 2035.

Only the first two recommendations listed above were discussed at the August 2 meeting. Knapp joined with several other Working Group members in objecting to the inclusion of a regional transportation sector carbon emissions cap, noting that the proposal received little discussion or study during the Working Group’s 2018 meetings. Knapp suggested that the proposal be further studied as part of the Working Group’s 2019 agenda. Knapp also expressed concern about the school bus electrification recommendation, noting that the assessment should not be tied to an explicit date and that counties and local boards of education be part of the discussion.

The Working Group’s next meeting will take place on August 30. At that time, the Working Group hopes to finalize its recommendations.

Useful Links

Maryland Commission on Climate Change

What’s Next for City Dock?

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley plans to revitalize City Dock – and the editors of the Capital Gazette think it’s about time.

They point out in an editorial published Wednesday that they have reported on the need for a new vision for City Dock for years. While the nuts and bolts of that vision may have shifted with time, the concept has remained the same: revitalization should both honor Annapolis’ rich cultural history while also providing unique open space.

Accomplishing both, however – and with the right balance – appears difficult. Mayor Buckley has one plan, and Historic Annapolis has another.

Read about how the Capital Gazette editors advocate for finding consensus here.

Part of the issue centers around Mayor Buckley advocating for zoning changes that concern preservationists. Interestingly, the Mayor and city can also draw upon another land use legal avenue to enforce a vision and aesthetic for the city’s waterfront property: riparian rights.

Learn about how counties and municipalities can draw upon the centuries-old concept of riparian rights to revitalize, protect, regulate and develop waterfront properties at the MACo Summer Conference session, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Law.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Kent Could Have Sole Veto Authority If New Bay Bridge Span Were Located in Tolchester

Cecil Whig article (2018-08-03) reported that if the proposed new Chesapeake Bay crossing was located in Tolchester, Kent County could have sole veto power over the proposal. The revelation is the result of an interpretation by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General and is based on a 2013 law – § 4-407 of the Transportation Article. This section of the State code reads:

 (a)    This section applies to:
(1)    Caroline County;
(2)    Cecil County;
(3)    Dorchester County;
(4)    Kent County;
(5)    Queen Anne’s County;
(6)    Somerset County;
(7)    Talbot County;
(8)    Wicomico County; and
(9)    Worcester County.

(b)    A State agency, including the Maryland Transportation Authority, may not construct any toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge in the counties enumerated in this section without the express consent of a majority of the governments of the affected counties.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, if the new bridge span were located in Tolchester and was viewed as a toll bridge, then as the only affected county, Kent could theoretically veto the project. Legislation was proposed during the 2018 Session to repeal this section of the Code but the bill failed. The article included a portion of the written response by Assistant Attorney General David Stamper:

“(N)othing I have found in the legislative history suggests the General Assembly specifically contemplated the application of this provision to a toll bridge across the Bay. But the lack of any evidence in the legislative history on this specific point, or the suggestion that the General Assembly likely was focused primarily on infrastructure with a more significant presence on the Eastern Shore, cannot overcome the plain meaning of the statutory language, which expressly limits a State agency’s authority to construct a toll facility, including a toll bridge, in any of the nine Eastern Shore counties,” Stamper wrote. …

“In the final analysis, it is difficult to give conclusive guidance about the application of the statute in the abstract, without applying the statute to a specific proposed toll project,” Stamper wrote. “While I hope this letter is responsive to your questions, it is not an official opinion of the Attorney General.”

While not an official opinion of the Attorney General’s office, Stamper’s interpretation tracks the plain language of § 4-407 and seems likely to be upheld if the statutory language was actually put to the test. The article noted that both the Commissioners and county residents have expressed opposition to a new Bay Bridge span being located in Tolchester.

The article also discussed the ongoing wildlife specialist vacancy at the 2,000-acre Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which could prompt the closure of the facility to the public. Maryland Delegate Steve Arentz has submitted a letter to the regional chief of the National Wildlife Service calling the refuge “a national treasure” and urging that the position be filled.

Howard County Council Passes 1-Year Development Moratorium Around Ellicott City

Howard County Times article (2018-07-27) reported that the Howard County Council has unanimously passed emergency legislation that would freeze development around Ellicott City for one-year. The legislation is in response to the two devastating floods that inundated the City’s Main Street area and will provide additional time to address the City’s flooding issues. County Executive Allan Kittleman has stated that he will sign the measure.

The article indicated that the moratorium would affect about planned 600 housing units in the Tiber River and Plumtree Branch stream watersheds. County Council Member Jon Weinstein proposed the moratorium. While the moratorium was supported by many residents the proposal generated opposition from the Maryland Building Industry Association. The Association argued that studies had indicated development was not a primary cause of the flooding. From the article:

The council’s moratorium “ignores the lessons from previous flood studies,” the association said in a statement.

“While development may not be the primary cause, it is a contributor,” Weinstein said. “The studies that have been done that suggest that it isn’t as big a contributor I would say are tempered by the reality of our current climate.” …

“It’s heartbreaking to see what happened,” said Jen Terrasa, a council member. “I don’t think we can keep thinking of it in terms of catastrophic floods anymore. We need a new measure.”

Useful Links

Council Bill 56-2018

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Ellicott City Flooding

How Technology Is Helping to Reduce Traffic Congestion & Improve Mobility

The Cobb County Department of Transportation recently announced a data-sharing partnership with Waze, the free, real-time crowdsourced traffic and navigation app powered by the world’s largest community of drivers. Designed as a free, two-way data share of publicly-available traffic information, the Waze Connected Citizens Program promotes greater efficiency, deeper insights, and safer roads for Cobb residents, along with more than 100 other partners around the world.

Launched in October 2014 with 10 city partners, the program has expanded to more than 100 partners including city, state, and country government agencies, nonprofits and first responders. The goals of the program are to reduce congestion, increase the efficiency of incident response, and make data-driven infrastructure decisions.

Waze provides real-time, anonymous, proprietary incident and slow-down information directly from the source: drivers themselves. Partners provide real-time and advanced information about government-reported construction, crash and road closure data.

According to Route Fifty:

The county has spent the last two years integrating its urban traffic control system with geographic information systems, having previously used GIS in operations like water quality assessments.

The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, or SCATS, can already change traffic signals automatically using cameras that monitor how many cars are queued at lights.

By joining Waze’s Connected Citizens Program, the county is improving its three-year-old Cobb Commute app notifying drivers of traffic speeds with more actionable insights. The county sends its road construction data to Waze and is piloting a dashboard showing road conditions and reported crashes at its Traffic Management Center.

A GIS-enabled traffic platform can also provide previous crash data, as well as identify problem areas on roads. This means counties can get strategic with how they spend money to make improvements.

To learn more about new technology driving new policy, listen to the most recent episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast.

Useful Links

This Georgia County Integrated GIS With Its Transportation System to Improve Mobility

Waze Connected Citizens Program

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Conduit Street Podcast: New Tech Driving New Policy – Part One

One of the hot topics in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session was Next Generation 9-1-1 technology. MACo’s Summer Conference Session, “Calibrating the Compass: GIS in a Next Gen 9-1-1 World,” will discuss how GIS data comes into play and what counties and others need to know as we move forward. The session is scheduled for Saturday, August 18, from 10:15 am – 11:15 am.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

MDE Finalizes Water Quality Nutrient Trading Regulations

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has finalized its water quality nutrient trading regulations after several years of work. The regulations took effect on July 16, 2018.

MACo believes nutrient credit trading is a necessary tool in order to help both the State and local governments achieve their water quality goals under their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). MACo is generally supportive of the regulations, although continues to remain concerned about the high performance level that wastewater treatment plans must achieve in order to offer credits for trading and proposed process for integrating trading into the Phase I and Phase II MS4 permits.

The regulations establish a registry and allow trades of individual or aggregated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment credits created by best management practices. Interjurisdictional trading and trades between sectors (i.e., wastewater treatment plants, agriculture, septics, and stormwater) are both allowed.

However, trades must occur within the same trading region. MDE has established three trading regions: (1) Potomac River Basin; (2) Patuxent River Basin; and (3) Eastern Shore and Western Shore River Basins, including the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna Basin. Additionally, trading with wastewater treatment plants is only allowed if the plants are generating outflows equal to or less than 3.0 mg/l for nitrogen or .3 mg/l for phosphorus. (This threshold is higher than the threshold a wastewater treatment plant must achieve in order to meet its Bay TMDL targets.)

At the July 23 meeting of the Water Trading Quality Advisory Committee meeting, MDE representatives discussed next steps regarding the trading regulations. The representatives stressed that the existing regulations may need to be modified over time. MDE is working to update the existing manual, web pages, and forms associated with trading by September. The online registry must also be finalized, with appropriate training offered.

Regarding MS4 permits, MDE stated that the new Phase II MS4 permit that will be effective in October of 2018 will have trading “built in” to the permit’s basic language. However, for existing Phase I permits, each permit will have to go through a modification process that includes a public hearing. Each permittee must request the modification in writing and state: (1) what percentage of their 20% impervious surface treatment goal they want to achieve through trading; and (2) why they cannot meet the 20% treatment goal without trading. In Maryland, ten counties are Phase I jurisdictions: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties. Additionally, those counties that are required to file financial assurance plans will need to be updated to reflect how a county plans on using trading.

MDE stated that while the agency plans on doing some inspections and enforcement itself, it also plans to “partner with counties and others.”

Useful Links

Maryland Water Quality Trading Program Regulations

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Nutrient Trading Regulations

Local Governments Across the Nation Respond to Airbnb & Short-Term Rental Challenge

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2018-07-18) highlighted the actions some local governments have taken across the United States in response to the burgeoning growth of Airbnb and similar short-term rental models. Short-term rentals, such as those offered through services like Airbnb, offer both positives and negatives. They can encourage tourism and provide homeowners with extra income, both of which can help a local economy. However, they can also attract commercial investors and when the concentration of short-term rentals reaches a tipping point, actually destabilize residential neighborhoods, reduce long-term rental options, and threaten jobs in the local hospitality industry.

MACo has supported addressing both the regulation and taxation issues posed by short-term rental properties. The Maryland General Assembly has considered legislation on short-term rentals for several years but nothing has passed to date. The article looked at how several local governments in other states have tried to address this challenging and complex issue.

Boston (Massachusetts)

The article focused on the efforts of Boston, which saw a dramatic spike in commercial investors purchasing residential properties to use as short-term rentals starting around 2013. The issue was brought into focus after a coalition of advocacy groups provided research from the University of Massachusetts showing the increasingly negative effects the short-term rental trend was having on the city’s workers and residents.  After being presented with the data, the city’s elected officials took action:

In June 2018, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance eliminating investor unit listings and regulating other short-term residential rentals. It established a registration and data collection system that will allow the city to more effectively monitor the impacts of this industry on its residential housing supply. “At the same time, it continues to allow owner-occupants to rent out extra rooms on AirBnB for as many as 365 days, or their entire home while on vacation,” the ordinance explains.

[Fenway Community Development Corporation representative Colleen] Fitzpatrick says that having data about who owns properties and how they are managed as rentals is a very important piece of the puzzle for city leaders to possess. It would be helpful, but not practical, to access the databases of companies such as AirBnB, which has a very sophisticated registration platform. Without access to information, it can be difficult for communities to move from registration to enforcement.

Fitzpatrick also noted in the article that the purpose of the ordinance was not to eliminate short-term rentals but rather find the balance between allowing short-term rentals and having stable communities and housing/long-term rental options.

Miami Beach (Florida)

The article discussed how Miami Beach has struggled to enforce its short-term rental regulations, which limit the location of short-term rentals based on tourist appeal and neighborhood character. For rentals less than six months and one day, homeowners must: (1) submit an affidavit stating that their home is located in an approved short-term rental area; (2) obtain a business tax receipt and resort tax account; and (3) if part of a condo association, show that the association allows short-term rentals. Single-family homes are prohibited from engaging in short-term rentals. Violations result in the eviction of tenants and fines for the owner starting at $20,000.

Denver, Estes Park, and Larimer County (Colorado)

The article noted that Denver has imposed both regulations and taxes on short-term rentals, which generated $1.1 million in the first eight months of 2017. The property registration rate is estimated at around 70 percent.

Nearby Estes Park and Larimer County jointly developed short-term rental regulations to ensure consistency within their jurisdictions. All short-term rental property owners must register and pay an application fee of $200 plus $50 per bedroom. The joint ordinance: (1) sets caps on rentals within residential zones and limits occupancy to eight people per home unless exempted after a review process; (2) requires the designation of a local representative of property manager to handle complaints; and (3) prohibits employee housing, attainable housing, and accessory dwelling units from being registered.

Walla Walla (Washington)

The city of Walla Walla passed a controversial ordinance that prohibited short-term rentals for properties that were not owner occupied for at least 275 days per year and limited rentals to 29 days at a time. Owners must also register short-term rentals as a business and pay applicable taxes. The article described the controversy surrounding the ordinance and the implementation challenges as many short-term renters could not meet the short timeline for the registration and taxation requirements.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Airbnb Issues

 

 

Howard County Ponders Future of Ellicott City’s Main Street After Second Flood

Bay Journal article (2018-07-10) recounted the scientific investigation into the second devastating flood to hit downtown Ellicott City within 2 years and the steps Howard County is taking to improve the City’s resiliency against future severe flooding events. The first flood in 2016 resulted in 2 deaths and caused roughly $10 million in damages. The flood this May caused 1 death and an estimated $20 million in damages. While the City’s Main Street area recovered slowly after the first flood, most businesses and residents elected to stay. However, after the second flood, some businesses have announced they are moving and some residents are considering whether to stay.

“There’s some very large emotional, financial and political decisions to be made,” said Jim Caldwell, Howard County’s director of community sustainability. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of soul-searching (by) folks that live there.”

Downtown Ellicott City has historically been prone to flooding, although development in the region and climate change appear to have aggravated the situation in recent years. After the 2016 flood, the County commissioned an engineering study after the 2016 flood and approved a variety of projects to help mitigate future flooding. However, the second flood hit before those projects could be implemented.  

Caldwell, the county community sustainability director, said after the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, he thought of three big changes that could help reduce damage from future storms – buying out some property owners and removing their buildings to open up the flood plain, “daylighting” stream channels now buried under streets and buildings, and getting vehicles off Main Street. During the 2016 flood and again in May, cars became battering rams as they washed down the street, and a few plugged up one of the culverts.

The article noted that the County is now considering a variety of additional proposals, including a thorough review of planned and future development, buying out some properties and taking down the buildings to create more pervious surface for a flood plain, and prohibiting cars on Main Street.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Ellicott City Flooding

Learn about responding to a water crisis and communicating during an emergency at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. Relevant panels include: “When It Rains, It Pours: Communicating in a Crisis” and “Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis.” Both panels run on August 16.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

Required Planning and Zoning Training Offered at #MACoCon

Learn about local government planning and zoning at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. This course is required by State law if you are a planning board member, planning commissioner, or a Board of Appeals member.

Planning Board, Planning Commissioner and Board of Appeals Members Education Course

Description

This FREE course satisfies a training requirement that was part of the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009, which requires Planning Commission, Planning Board, and Board of Appeals members to complete an education course within 6 months after appointment to the Commission or Board. The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) is offering this course to all those who have not yet completed it.

The Course covers topics such as foundations of planning, the role of the comprehensive plan, standards for special exceptions and variances and implementing ordinances such as zoning and subdivision and adequate public facilities, planning law, ethics and the latest legislative and policy developments concerning planning in Maryland.

NOTE: You do not need to register for the conference to attend this course.

Speakers

  • Charles W. Boyd, Director Planning Coordination, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Tracey Gordy, Regional Planner, Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Keith Lackie, Regional Planner, Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Paul Cucuzzella, Principal Counsel, Maryland Department of Planning

Date & Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2018; 9:00 am – Noon

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Keeping Cars Off the Boards Ain’t Cheap

Safety comes at a price. Unfortunately, Ocean City’s came in four times over budget.

In an effort to protect vehicular attacks on pedestrians on the boardwalk, the town looked into closing off all access points. Originally estimated to cost about $1 million, the plan is now estimated at more than $4.26 million. The town is looking at ways to reduce the cost without undermining utility.

Delmarvanow covers the story:

The project was originally proposed last fall after multiple deliberate attacks on pedestrians involving vehicles occurred in cities across the United States and abroad. In the last four years, at least 15 such attacks have happened around the world, according to USA Today.