Land Use and Growth

LAND USE/GROWTH MANAGEMENTAction to encourage the State to establish goals, guidelines, and standards for land use, with local implementation of land use policies. (1975, 1979, 1991)

 

Support for:
  1. State government having a larger role than local government in managing critical areas of statewide concern, especially environmental protection and resource conservation and preservation.
  2. Goals and guidelines for regional and interagency coordination in the development and implementation of land use plans.
  3. Local government’s use of land use planning and regulatory techniques, such as adequate public facilities legislation, land banking, planned unit developments, transfer of development rights, and timed development ordinances to direct development to designated areas.
  4. Preservation of agricultural land by:
    • a. zoning;
    • b. continued use of preferential farmland easement laws, including collection of the roll-back tax;
    • c. transfer of development rights;
    • d. easement purchases funded by the state real estate transfer tax.
  5. State government use of incentives such as the provision of technical assistance, infrastructure and grants to enable local governments to comply with state goals, guidelines and standards.
 
Background: Studies in the 1970s concerned relations among various levels of government involved in land use decisions and particular land use problems, laws, and mechanisms in the local jurisdictions. A “Facts and Issues” paper was published by LWVMD in 1973. The General Assembly, in 1974, passed a rather weak bill for identification of critical areas and regulation of land use in them. Consensus was reached in 1975 on several positions, including support for the preservation of agricultural land and for establishment by the state of standards and guidelines, with local implementation.
 
Further study led to consensus in 1979 on stronger and clearer positions on preservation of agricultural land; these positions have been used by several Leagues to support county preservation efforts. Support also was developed for Program Open Space (POS), using part of the real estate transfer tax to acquire land and keep it undeveloped, and testimony was given to defend these funds from diversion to other uses or elimination of the tax that provides the funds. In 1990 LWV supported and the Assembly passed legislation that phased out a previously imposed ceiling on funds to be transferred to POS, the Agricultural Land Preservation Fund, and the Heritage Fund.
 
Under LWVUS positions, LWVMD supported the 1984 Critical Areas Act, which established the Maryland Critical Areas Commission, promulgated criteria and regulations designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and which required local jurisdictions to set up local zoning plans subject to approval by the Commission. In 1987 LWVMD supported passage of the Critical Areas Criteria developed by the Commission, and co-sponsored a workshop on analysis of local plans for compliance. In 1989, LWV testified for the Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act, which passed.
 
Concerned about the loss of farm and forest land to residential sprawl, in 1989 LWVMD began a study of the State’s existing and potential role in growth management, leading to a 1990 “Facts & Issues” paper, and to a consensus in 1991 which augmented support positions.
 
Action:
  • Supported a bill setting minimum requirements for preserving trees on development sites.
  • Opposed development of a large area known as Black Marsh Wildland. (1990-91 – achieved)
  • Supported, in general, the Barnes Commission, appointed by the Governor to study means for the Maryland government to protect natural resources and manage growth. The Commission made recommendations in 1991 that were considered controversial by the General Assembly, which referred the issue to a committee. The committee proposed a weak Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Act of 1992. The League testified that the proposed act needed to have enforcement power added, and the Act was finally passed with strengthening amendments. (1991-92)
  • Opposed the Maryland Private Land Rights Protection Act (a “takings” bill), which would have required the state to pay any landowner for the reduction in value of his land due to regulations restricting its use. (1993 – achieved)
  • Supported bills that would have authorized bond issues for POS and related purposes by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and by county governments. (1993 – defeated)
  • Opposed the state taking over the Federal non-tidal wetlands. There was concern that state administration of the program would be more responsive to developers and less responsive to public concerns than Federal regulation had been. (1994)
  • Supported increasing the opportunity for citizens to challenge land use decisions by giving “standing” to a wider range of citizens. (1994, 1995 and 1996 – defeated)
  • Supported legislation to protect approximately 20,000 acres in 17 sites on existing state lands under Maryland’s Wildlands Preservation System. (1996 – achieved)
  • Supported designation of 5,400 additional Wildlands acres. (1997 – achieved)
  • Supported the Governor’s “Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation” legislation intended to curb urban sprawl and protect farms and forests by directing growth into areas already served by roads and infrastructure. (1997—achieved)
  • Supported Water Quality Improvement Act. (1998, – achieved)
  • Supported the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. (ongoing)
  • Supported bills related to redeposit and dumping of dredge spoil. (1999—defeated)
  • Supported bills to limit poultry farming run-off. (1999 – withdrawn as EPA responsibility)
  • Supported additional “Smart Growth” initiatives: “Smart Codes” for rehabilitation of structures and development of models and guidelines. (2000 – achieved)
  • Supported bills on water conservation, use of reclaimed water, radium in private wells, and a study on upgrading sewerage systems. (2001 – achieved)
  • Supported closing loopholes, opened by court decisions, on Critical Areas. (2002—achieved)
  • Supported designating 3900 acres of Savage Ravines and South Savage Type I State Wildlands. (2002 – achieved)
  • Supported water quality measures resulting from the NCA study of the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers. (ongoing)
  • Supported increased fines for water pollution violations. (2003 – achieved)
  • Supported a taskforce to study water resource management. (2003 – passed, vetoed).