Planning Commission and Board of Appeals Training Offered at #MACoCon

Are you a Planning Commissioner or Board of Appeals Member who still needs to get your mandatory training or do you just want to learn more about land use and the planning process? Take a training course for free at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference.

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

Description

This FREE course satisfies a training requirement that requires a Planning Commission, Planning Board, and Board of Appeals member to complete an education course within 6 months after appointment. 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 “Chuck” Boyd, Director of Planning Coordination, Planning Services Division, 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 16, 9:00 AM – Noon

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Seattle Firm Proposing Solar Projects in South Anne Arundel County

A Seattle company is proposing to build solar projects on three South Anne Arundel County farms is holding a public meeting this evening to discuss the project and field questions and comments.

According to The Capital Gazette,

The installations could cover about 10 acres of each farm in solar panels, plus access roadways and infrastructure required to convert and distribute the electricity generated at each site.

The company, One Energy Renewables, has been developing medium- sized solar projects on agricultural land across the country.

It was partner in two large projects on the Eastern Shore; the 40,000 solar panel project in a field near Wye Mills providing power for Johns Hopkins and another outside Cambridge, 14,326 panels indirectly supplying The National Aquarium with 40 percent of its electricity needs.

The projects in South County — on a 58-acre property on Sands Road, an 82-acre parcel on Bayard Road and a 50-acre plot on Franklin Gibson Road — would likely have under 8,000 panels each.

According to its website, the company leases land from farm families.

“You’ll be harvesting a renewable resource that promises a stable and long-term source of revenue for your family – one that doesn’t fluctuate with global commodity markets, or vary based on weather events year to year,” the site reads.

Once the lease is up, or the panels have exhausted their usefulness, One Energy says it removes all equipment and infrastructure and the land can be farmed again.

But some farmers wonder if this is the best use of agricultural land.

“I thought the county was committed to preserving agriculture in South County,” said John Ball, who owns 160 acres on Franklin Gibson Road.

“That’s not agriculture, that’s light industrial, if you ask me,” Ball said.

He also questioned the wisdom of plopping down such a complex in the middle of several farms in agricultural preservation.

“The county has to make a decision: Is it going to preserve agriculture or chase solar farms?” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Proposed Bill Would Protect Montgomery Burial Sites from Development

Old cemeteries and burial grounds that may lay in the path of new development would receive better protection under legislation introduced Tuesday by a trio of Montgomery County Council members.

The county has a list of more than 250 burial sites established by churches, families, and enslaved and free black communities, some dating back to the early 18th century. But in many cases, the boundaries are not exact, and the information is fragmentary.

According to The Washington Post,

The measure requires that when land earmarked for new construction includes a burial site listed in county records, the developer must “use best historical and archaeological practices” to establish the exact location. Projects would not be approved without plans in place to protect those sites during construction and maintain them going forward.

“We in Montgomery County owe it to our many historic founders and historic residents to pay them the respects they deserve,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), who co-sponsored the bill with Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) and Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda). Officials said Howard and Prince George’s counties have similar laws.

Planning officials say the presence of cemeteries on land to be developed is now relatively rare. The bill strengthens provisions aimed at preventing what appears to have happened in Bethesda’s Westbard neighborhood during the 1960s, when an early-20th-century African American cemetery probably was disturbed and paved over during construction of an apartment high-rise.

A proposal to redevelop that area is now at the center of a bitter dispute pitting nearby Macedonia Baptist Church against the property owner, Regency Centers, and the county. Church members want to see a museum on the site commemorating the black community that existed along River Road until the mid-20th century. The matter is in mediation.

Useful Links

Bill 24-17 – Land Use Information – Burial Sites

Read the full article from The Washington Post

Prince George’s Council to Hold Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting

The Prince George’s County Council, in partnership with the Prince George’s County Planning Department, is encouraging county residents to attend a Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

According to a press release,

The County Council and Prince George’s County Planning Department, are conducting a comprehensive update of the County’s 50-year-old Zoning Ordinance to streamline zoning laws and create a user-friendly document supporting the County’s vision for smart growth, economic development and improved quality of life for residents.

Council Chair Derrick L. Davis (D) – District 6 says citizen involvement in the Zoning Rewrite process is critical.

“Updating the County’s zoning policies is among the most important undertakings of the Council in its role as the County’s land use authority. Residents deserve a leaner, clearer zoning process to be better informed about development and to play a more significant role in shaping the future of our County. I encourage all County residents and stakeholders to attend this Zoning Rewrite Town Hall meeting and share their thoughts and ideas concerning the Zoning Rewrite and its various modules.”

Presenters for the Council’s Zoning Rewrite Town Hall Meeting are Clarion Associates’ Directors Don Elliott and Craig Richardson. Chief of Countywide Planning, Derick Berlage; Zoning Rewrite Project Manager, Chad Williams; and Zoning Rewrite Outreach Specialist Brittney Drakeford will also be on hand to answer audience questions and participate during the discussion portion of the Town Hall meeting.

To watch live, please visit: http://pgccouncil.us/townhall

Read the full press release for more information.

Will You Throw the First Pitch?

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Step up and share your county’s IT needs at MACo’s Summer Conference.

This year’s MACo Conference offers attendees an opportunity to voice county government information technology interests directly to private sector providers in an informal, informational format.

Share challenges & discover capabilities in this new Tech Wednesday offering.

SWITCH PITCH” IGNITE! — Meet Your Match: Solutions to County IT Challenges

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Gain quick insight into what tech can do for county governments in this fast-paced session. County IT and management professionals will state their needs, and vendors in the Tech Expo Tradeshow will respond with their pitch for solving the top tech issues. Attendees will get a chance to learn a little about a lot of vendors in a short period of time. Listen and learn!

Example County Pitches

  1. How do I empower employees to work from home in a secure and productive manner at minimal cost to the County?
  2. There are so many mobile apps in the market. Other than reading through the reviews, how can one determine the overall quality of a mobile app?  Is there a standard to check an app’s quality? What is it?
  3. What and where have been some of the more successful public/private partnerships providing broadband to unserved rural areas?

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A PART OF THIS SESSION Space is limited – Reply by July 19.

Have a pitch, but you are not attending this session?  Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo.

Tech Wednesday Vendor List

  • AVI-SPL, Inc
  • CDW-G
  • Comcast
  • Commvault
  • Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc.
  • Data Networks of America
  • ePlus Technology Inc.
  • Esri
  • Freedom Broadband
  • Fujitsu America, Inc.
  • GovDeals, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lenovo
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Maryland Libraries
  • Maryland Relay
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Musco Sports Lighting
  • NIC Maryland
  • Phillips Office Solutions
  • Presidio
  • Prosys Information Systems
  • Regent Development Consulting, Inc. (RDC)
  • Ricoh USA, Inc.
  • Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Rudolph’s Office & Computer Supply, Inc.
  • SAIC
  • ShoreScan Solutions
  • Splunk
  • Sprint
  • Supply Solutions, LLC
  • Tomi Environmental Solutions

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

1,000 Jurisdictions Now Committed to Complete Streets

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2017-06-17) reported that more than 1,000 jurisdictions in the United States have committed to the “Complete Streets” initiative at the end of 2016. The Complete Streets program is designed to make streets safe and accessible to everyone regardless of “age, income, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or how they choose to travel.” The findings are based on a report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. From the article:

Communities adopted a total of 222 new complete streets policies that year. Nationwide, a total of 1,232 policies are now in place, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, including 33 state governments, 77 regional planning organizations, and 955 individual municipalities.

These policies are the strongest ever passed. When the National Complete Streets Coalition first evaluated complete streets policies in 2006, the median score was 34 and by 2015 the median score had risen to 68.4. In 2016, the median score leapt to 80.8. Before 2012, no policy had scored higher than 90. And it wasn’t until 2015 that any policy scored a perfect 100. In 2016, 51 policies scored a 90 or higher, including 3 policies that scored a perfect 100. These gains are a testament to communities’ commitment to passing strong, impactful policies.

By passing strong complete streets policies these communities are making a clear commitment to streets that are safe and convenient for everyone. And they do so at a time when our country desperately needs safer options for biking and walking. …

Complete streets is more than a checklist. It’s a frame of mind. A complete streets approach integrates the needs of people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation networks. Complete streets redefines what a transportation network looks like, which goals a transportation agency is going to meet, and how a community prioritizes its transportation spending. It breaks down the traditional separation in planning for different modes of travel, and emphasizes context-sensitive, multimodal project planning, design, and implementation. In doing so, a complete streets approach can make streets safer and more convenient for everyone.

The article also explained the need for programs such as Complete Streets:

As a nation we face an epidemic of obesity and its related illnesses. The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended making biking and walking a routine part of daily life to help address this health crisis, yet in too many communities streets are not built to safely accommodate these activities. Smart Growth America’s recent report Dangerous by Design 2016 outlined the enduring problem of pedestrian fatalities in the United States, and highlighted the 46,149 people who were struck and killed by cars while walking between 2005 and 2014. Over that period Americans were seven times as likely to be killed as a pedestrian than by a natural disaster. During the same period, more than 7,000 people were killed while biking.

Dangerous by Design 2016 also showed that people of color and older adults are over-represented among pedestrian deaths, and that pedestrian risk is correlated with median household income as well as rates of uninsured individuals. That means people of color most likely face disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking, and low-income metro areas are predictably more dangerous than higher-income ones.

Because of this context, for the first time this year the study looked at the income and racial demographics of the communities included in its analysis. The data showed that communities passing or updating a complete streets policy in 2016 were, on average, slightly more white and more wealthy than the United States as a whole. The average racial makeup of these communities was 76.3 percent white, 10.3 percent black or African American, 0.8 percent American Indian, 5.3 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Pacific Islander, 4.1 percent other, and 3.1 percent two or more races. In all, 77 percent of localities that passed policies in 2016 had white populations greater than the national average of 73.6 percent. The median household income of communities who passed or updated a policy in 2016 was $59,347, about 10 percent above the national average of $53,889.

Taken together, it is clear that communities are consistently passing stronger and more effective complete streets policies, a significant accomplishment. It is also clear that the challenge now is to help communities of all income levels and ethnicities benefit from this progress equitably.

The article noted that the top three scoring jurisdictions with perfect scores of 100 were: (1) Brockton, Massachusetts; (2) Missoula, Montana; and (3) Wenatchee, Washington. In Maryland, jurisdictions or agencies with Complete Streets initiatives include: (1) the State; (2) State Highway Administration; (3) Baltimore City; (4) Baltimore County; (5) Montgomery County; (6) Prince George’s County; (7) Annapolis; (8) the City of Frederick; (9) Rockville; and (10) Salisbury.

Useful Links

Best Complete Streets Policies of 2016 Report

Dangerous by Design 2016 Report

Smart Growth America Website

National Complete Streets Coalition Webpage

NACo Webinar: National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization – What Counties Need to Know

On Monday, June 26, the National Association of Counties (NACo) will host a webinar to educate stakeholders about the potential impact of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The upcoming webinar titled “National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization: What Counties Need to Know” will provide participants with an overview of the NFIP and how it works. Additionally, the webinar will provide an update about legislation that Congress is developing to reauthorize the program before it expires on September 30, 2017.

Monday’s webinar will feature Caitlin Berni, Vice President for Policy and Communications at Greater New Orleans, Inc., who recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee about the potential impact of changes to the program on communities throughout the United States.

NACo encourages local leaders from communities that participate in the NFIP to register for the webinar by clicking here.

Additional information is available on the NACo website.

PSC Nixes Wind Project in Allegany County

The Maryland Public Service Commission has sided with a public utility law judge’s order denying a wind-power developer’s request to construct a 17-turbine wind farm on Dan’s Mountain, effectively killing the project.

Cumberland Times-News reports,

In a 16-page document released Friday, the PSC affirmed an order issued by Chief Public Utility Law Judge Terry J. Romine in January. The PSC denied Dan’s Mountain Wind Force’s request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity as well as any other outstanding requests or motions not granted, according to the document.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force had appealed the judge’s decision in February.

“We find that the project will have an adverse impact on the esthetics of the local communities on and around Dan’s Mountain,” according to the PSC documents. “Further, we find that the adverse impact caused to the comfort of nearby residents by the noise produced and the shadow flicker perceived will not be fully mitigated by incorporating licensing conditions …”

Allegany County officials had also previously denied permits for the project.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force has argued that the project will create much-needed jobs and tax revenue for the county.

Construction costs were estimated at between $90 million and $100 million by the developer.

Last year during a PSC hearing, Allegany County residents spoke out in opposition of the proposed project, many citing health concerns.

Opponents of the project formed an organization named ANCHOR (Allegany Neighbors & Citizens for Home Owners’ Rights) to challenge the wind farm, expressing concerns including noise and destruction of the views in the neighborhood.

“We find that benefits that may accrue to the public at large by construction of the project do not justify or offset subjecting the local community to the adverse impacts that will result from the project’s construction and operation,” according to the PSC documents.

Read the full article for more information.

TopGolf Plan for South Baltimore Is Ready for Possible Tee-Off

A proposal to open TopGolf at the site of Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter site near M&T Bank Stadium in South Baltimore has been sent to city economic development officials by Towson developer Caves Valley Partners, City Councilman Ed Resiginer said this week. Reisinger represents the 10th District, which includes the area.

Baltimore Business Journal reports,

In the meantime, the city has signed a contract to acquire a 40,000-square-foot facility at 2800 Wegworth Lane near Westport and Cherry Hill for a new BARCS shelter, said Scott Douglas, a principal at Douglas Commercial LLC, which listed the building for sale. Douglas declined to reveal the sales price.

Caves Valley in early April submitted the lone bid for a 2.5-acre parcel of city-owned land at 301 Stockholm St. in response to a request for proposals issued earlier this year by the Baltimore Development Corp., Resiginer said. Another 7 acres located adjacent to the BARCS site would make the development property total 10 acres.

Arsh Mirmiran, a partner in Caves Valley, did not respond to a request for comment.

Adding TopGolf, a national chain with locations in cities that include Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., will boost the area’s vibe as am emerging entertainment zone. TopGolf’s feature a 240-yard high-tech driving range, a sports bar and restaurant and party rental hall. The area is currently highlighted by the home turf of the Baltimore Ravens and the Horseshoe Baltimore casino.

The Dallas-based company has been searching to move into Baltimore for about a year. TopGolf is planning its first Maryland location off Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg.

Reisinger said this week the bid to build a TopGolf location there by Caves Valley was moving through city development channels. The site was identified in a 2015 South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan by the city Department of Planning as part of a new “entertainment hub.”

Read the full article for more information.

Frederick Council Passes Bills on Election-Year Zoning, Affordable Housing

The Frederick County Council approved a bill Tuesday night that will halt zoning decisions in the heat of election seasons.

The Frederick News-Post reports,

The bill is similar to a policy used by the Board of Aldermen in the city of Frederick and was put forward by County Executive Jan Gardner (D) with the goal of preventing the appearance of political pressure and undue influence in zoning decisions during election campaigns and in the lame-duck period after them.

Amendments to the bill last month changed the window in which the council could not consider such applications from July 1 in an election year to one day after the council’s inauguration in December.

Under the bill as passed, the County Council wouldn’t be able to make such decisions for about five months during the fourth year of their terms.

The bill passed on a 4-3 vote. Republican councilmen Tony Chmelik, Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter voted against the bill. Democrats Jerry Donald, Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer supported the bill, along with council President Bud Otis, who is unaffiliated.

Gardner said Tuesday evening that she will sign the bill when it’s presented to her office.

“I’m very pleased that it passed. It’s a win for good government,” she said.

Shreve attempted to change the bill again on Tuesday night, with an amendment that would have the moratorium begin after the 2018 election. He said the current council was elected to carry out their full duties for full four-year terms.

But Donald pointed out that the bill simply lengthens one area of the council’s legislative powers beyond the lame-duck prohibition already included in the county’s charter.

Shreve’s amendment failed in a similar 4-3 vote.

Chmelik said he opposed the measure because it could create a time burden for builders and developers. He said that industry was also unfairly targeted by the legislation while others were not.

But supporters of the bill said at previous public hearings that special scrutiny should be reserved for zoning decisions, which can permanently change the character of areas in the county.

Also on Tuesday night, the council gave final approval to a bill that increases the fees developers pay in lieu of building affordable housing.

The new calculation — which takes into consideration the “affordability gap” between average home sales and the purchasing power of households earning 70 percent of the area median income — would increase the fee to $26,500 for the next three years.

The previous fee was $17,500.

Under the bill, which was sponsored by Fitzwater, the new fee would be calculated triennially.

It passed 5-2 with support from Chmelik, Donald, Fitzwater, Keegan-Ayer and Otis.

Read the full article for more information.