Maryland leaders talk innovative transit solutions

MD workshopMembers of the Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council gather in Baltimore to discuss local transit solutions.

Transit service makes walkable urban places work better for all users, but finding affordable, flexible, scalable transit is a major hurdle for communities pursuing smart growth. The Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council convened a workshop in Baltimore on November 12 to dig in to what works, considering very different solutions from three very different places.

Ten elected leaders and staff brought varying concerns to the table. Mayor Gee Williams of Berlin, MD, population 4,562, is focused on accommodating visitors. “During the last ten years we’ve become a destination community – this is now our chief economic driver. The vision we are in the early stages of discussing is how we can accommodate up to 3,000 guests in a small downtown area. We also have a challenge for our residents to access downtown services every day.”

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What could your community do with a free technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America?

Salisbury Walk AuditCouncil President Jake Day of Salisbury, MD participates in the Walkability Audit.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free workshops to help communities use smart growth strategies to achieve their goals for economic and environmental sustainability. Local Leaders Council members have used these workshops in very different ways. “The workshops we offer range from general introductions to very specific tools like the Parking Audit,” explains Elizabeth Schilling, Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Policy Development and Implementation, who teaches the Smart Growth Implementation 101 workshops. “In our most successful communities, leaders pick the right tool for the problem at hand, then design an outreach strategy to engage really diverse groups of problem solvers.”

Local Leaders Council Technical assistance

Committed local leaders are a key advantage in free workshop competition

Councilmember Michael Trapp, right, at parking audit workshop in Columbia, MO in 2015.

“Involvement of key community leaders” is one of five criteria Smart Growth America uses to select which communities receive our free technical assistance workshops each year. In fact, a letter of commitment signed by “the mayor, county commission chair, or comparable elected leader” is one of the requirements for applying.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council are a natural fit for this requirement, with a demonstrated interest in smarter development strategies. Over the past five years, 23 of the more than 50 winning communities have been home to current and future Local Leaders Council members. Here’s a look at how Local Leaders Council members have used these competitive awards.

In 2013, the Village of Park Forest, IL won a sustainable land use code audit workshop, which served as a kickoff event for the Village’s work revising its zoning and subdivision ordinances. The workshop was an opportunity to fill in gaps in technical expertise, gauge public interest in sustainable land use codes, and bring a fresh set of eyes to the process.

Local Leaders Council Technical assistance

Leaders discuss expanding housing choice at Policy Forum 2015

housingtrackAttendees at the housing choices track at the Local Leaders Council’s Policy Forum 2015.

In May, local leaders from across the country came together for the Local Leaders Council’s Policy Forum 2015, a two-day summit in Washington, DC on healthy neighborhoods, expanding housing choices, and downtown revitalization. We’ve written previously about the Forum’s discussions of downtown revitalization and walkable design and economic development. This post takes a closer look at the Forum’s discussions around expanding housing choices.

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Neighborhood revitalization workshop teaches Maryland leaders new strategies and ways to overcome challenges

Maryland revitalization workshopLocal leaders from Western Maryland and Maryland’s Eastern Shore discuss revitalization challenges and successes.

Nearly twenty members of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, March 13 for a Revitalizing Downtowns and Regional Centers for the Triple Bottom Line workshop sponsored by Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland. Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, an Advisory Board member of the Maryland Chapter, sponsored the event at the Silver Spring Civic Building in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring.

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Maryland leaders gather to discuss leadership in smart growth at Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference

 Maryland Association of Counties Winter ConferenceCounty Executive Rushern Baker, Councilmember Roger Berliner, and County Executive Jan Gardner describe the smart growth efforts they are championing.

Over 50 local elected leaders from Maryland, including members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, gathered on Wednesday, January 7 to discuss smart growth successes and challenges during the Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference in Cambridge, MD. Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland cosponsored the event.

Local Leaders Council

Councilmember Roger Berliner on creating a multimodal boulevard in Montgomery County, MD

woodglencycletrack2
Woodglen Cycle Track in White Flint, MD. Photo courtesy of Dan Reed, via Flickr.

Home to more than one million residents and a thriving high-tech economy, Montgomery County, MD is far from a typical American suburb.

Located adjacent to Washington, DC, the county boasts strong research and biotechnology sectors, backed by one of the region’s mostly highly-educated populations: over half of residents above the age of 25 hold a college degree or higher. Now, thanks to the work of pioneering officials like Councilmember Roger Berliner, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Montgomery County has another badge of honor: it’s an emerging smart growth hot-spot.

“We have wonderful schools, wonderful green space, and one third of the county is set aside as an agricultural reserve. We are the economic engine of the state of Maryland,” says Councilmember Berliner. “We have historically been a suburban community and are now experiencing the growth of urban nodes and the benefits of those nodes in areas like Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Germantown.”

Local Leaders Council

Councilmember Julie Palakovitch Carr on building around transit in Rockville, MD

Rockville Town SquareRockville Town Square in Rockville, MD. Photo by Dan Reed via flickr.

Located just outside Washington, DC to the northwest, suburban Rockville, MD is one of the largest municipalities in Maryland with a population just over 63,000. Rockville serves as the county seat of Montgomery County—the largest county in Maryland by population, with over 1 million residents.

Rockville’s Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to use transit access to help make Rockville a place with a unique identity and a strong sense of community. “Being a suburb of Washington, DC, we are struggling with traffic congestion and other issues that come with rapid growth and redevelopment,” she says. “A lot of it is just managing those things in a way that we are maintaining a good quality of life with nice neighborhoods where people can enjoy open space and parkland, while trying to envision a future where people may be using their cars less and people will be walking more and able to ride their bikes.”

Local Leaders Council

Downtown revitalization strategies in Frederick, MD

Revitalization Strategies WorkshopMaryland local leaders participate in a walking tour of historic Downtown Frederick, MD. 

Nearly two dozen Maryland members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council met last Thursday for a Downtown Revitalization Strategies workshop sponsored by Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland. Frederick, MD Mayor Randy McClement hosted the event, providing an in-depth look at the city’s revitalization successes. Following the workshop, Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development, and Kara Norman, Executive Director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, led participants on a tour of Downtown Frederick that highlighted revitalization initiatives.

Mayor McClement kicked off the workshop by describing the core of Frederick’s approach to revitalization. “The City’s concentration is on Downtown Frederick. Although Frederick is not just a downtown, but 20 square miles, the downtown is the thing that drives the city.” He continued by asserting that much of Frederick’s success owes to strong partnerships. “You cannot underestimate the power of partnerships. Find them, enhance them, and use them. Every city has groups that are interested in standing up to help,” he said.

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Mayor Randy McClement on facilitating private investment

Carroll Creek Linear Park
Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, MD. Photo by Sarah Absetz.

Known as “The City of Clustered Spires,” Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland, with a population of 65,000 residents. Located an hour from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, the city boasts a 40-block downtown historic district and an unmistakable sense of place.

“Frederick is the second largest municipality in the state, but we still have a hometown feel. This is not just from the architectural character of the town, but also the character and personalities of the residents,” says Mayor Randy McClement, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The city has a history of revitalization, starting in the 1970s after several major employers had left the city and massive flooding devastated downtown Frederick. The resulting flood control project was designed to double as a downtown park and economic development tool. The first phase of the park project, called Carroll Creek Linear Park, was completed in 2006, and includes pedestrian paths, water features and an outdoor amphitheater. The $15 million project brought a $50 million return on investment to the city, adding 1,500 new jobs and transforming the downtown.

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