The Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 which took effect on July 1, 2009, was designed to strengthen the connection between land use actions and the comprehensive plan as a result of the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Trail v. Terrapin Run, LLC, 403 Md. 523 (2008), specifically stating its intention to overturn that decision. The new law provides, among other things, that actions that are “consistent with” or have “consistency with” a comprehensive plan are actions that further, and are not contrary to, the following items in the plan: policies; timing of implementation of the plan; timing of development; timing of rezoning; development patterns; land uses; and densities or intensities. The law also requires members of planning commissions and boards of appeal to complete an education course before July 1, 2010 and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) is required to develop an online planning education course for local jurisdictions and make it available by that date (although local jurisdictions are authorized to develop their own educational course).
The Smart Growth Goals, Measures and Indicators law took effect on June 1, 2009, and it requires local planning commissions or boards to submit annual reports to local legislative bodies beginning July 1, 2011 that include specified smart growth measures and indicators and information on a local land use goal as part of the report. Charter counties are now required to submit an annual report beginning July 1, 2009. New for the reports, they must state which ordinances or regulations were adopted or changed to implement the State’s planning visions. The measure and indicators that must be reported on are the: amount and share of growth that is being located inside and outside the Priority Funding Area (PFA); net density of growth that is being located inside and outside the PFA; creation of new lots and the issuance of residential and commercial building permits inside and outside the PFA; development capacity analysis, updated once every 3 years or when there is a significant zoning or land use change; and number of acres preserved using local agricultural land preservation funding.
The bill establishes a statewide land use goal of increasing the current percentage of growth within the PFA and decreasing the percentage of growth outside the PFA. Local jurisdictions are also required to develop a percentage goal towards achieving the statewide goal. The annual report filed by local jurisdictions must also include: local goal; time frame for achieving the local goal; resources necessary for infrastructure inside the PFA and land preservation outside the PFA; and any incremental progress made towards achieving that local goal.
The Maryland Department of Planning will be developing measures and indicators as well as adopting regulations. Further, the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development must recommend additional measures and indicator information that should be collected.
Effective October 1, 2009, the Planning Visions law has replaced Maryland’s 8 planning visions with 12 that now address: quality of life and sustainability, public participation, growth areas, community design, infrastructure, transportation, housing, economic development, environmental protection, resource conservation, stewardship, and implementation approaches. Certain reporting is now required for priority funding areas and adequate public facility ordinances. The new law also authorizes local jurisdictions to establish Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs within priority funding areas.