At its most recent meeting on August 7, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Smart Growth and Rural Development made several preliminary recommendations, all of which were passed unanimously.
“Our meetings have been and continue to be very dynamic and educational, with input from many different facets of the community and the region,” said County Commissioner Gene Ransom, who co-chairs the Blue Ribbon Panel with Frank Frohn, chair of the Queen Anne’s County Planning Commission. County Commissioner Paul Gunther is also a member of the panel.
The Blue Ribbon Panel was created in January in response to proposed county ordinance 08-25, The Rural Preservation and Development Act. The panel’s members are representative of the county and include farmers, business people, conservationists and leaders from local municipalities.
Over the past several months, panel members studied various preservation programs and methods and heard presentations concerning growth management practices across the region and the state. The panel also received input from real estate appraisers and attorneys, bankers, county staff, farmers, realtors, developers and conservation groups.
The group recently finished its analysis of 19 proposals concerning zoning changes, new growth areas, transfer of development rights, barriers to development and agricultural preservation. The following preliminary recommendations were made:
o The County Commission should pass legislation allowing for voluntary agricultural districts. The districts could be used as a tool to allow for private groups, or the County Agriculture Board to purchase development rights.
o The County Commission should expand the priority preservation area to an area greater than the rural legacy district.
o The County Agriculture Board should do a comprehensive study of the use of preservation funds. The study should include a review of other jurisdictions, the use of staggered or periodic payments, and an action plan to increase applications for Federal and State dollars.
o The County Commission should write to the Department of Natural Resources, and other elected officials to request a change in State law to allow for a greater use of Program Open Space dollars to purchase development rights, and
o The County Commission should be asked to employ the Parks and Recreation impact fee collected in the rural area for preservation programs.
o The County Commission should continue to aggressively apply for Rural Legacy, Program Open Space and MALPF money for preservation.
o Remove the towns of Price, Kingstown, Pondtown, Ruthsburg and Starr from the list of proposed new growth areas and recommend that the Comprehensive Plan update include discussions of new growth areas.
The panel has more work to do and additional recommendations to make. The panel’s next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, August 22 at 8 a.m. in the Planning Commission meeting room at the Department of Land Use, Growth Management and Environment on Coursevall Drive.