Spotlight on Sustainability: Maryland capitalizes on grant, plans growth around Metro stations

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The southern expansion of the Washington, D.C. Metro green line opened in 2001 – costing over $900 million. Prince Georges County, Maryland, seeking to capitalize on the existing transit system developed a corridor action plan that incorporates transit oriented development around four southern green line stations; Southern Ave, Suitland, Naylor Rd. and Branch Ave.

With an annual ridership of over 200 million trips the Metro system is an invaluable asset to spur future growth in the DC metropolitan region. Job and housing growth was higher in the area along the southern green line than it was along any other transit line in the DC metro system between 2000-2010.

The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) capitalized on the growth potential of the southern green line with an $800,000 Community Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop the corridor action plan.

Complete Streets

Councilmember Eric Olson works to ensure Prince George's County's legacy neighborhoods stay well connected

Olson speaks with Governor Martin O'Malley at the announcement of new state offices near New Carrollton station. Photo via Flickr.
Prince George’s County Councilmember Eric Olson (right) speaks with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (left) at the announcement of new state offices near New Carrollton station. Photo via Flickr.

Prince George’s County, MD has no lack of ways to get around or places nearby to go. The largely suburban county just outside of Washington, DC contains fifteen Metro stations and is served by two MARC commuter rail lines, among other transit routes. But regulatory red tape has made it difficult for developers to build near stations and as a result, many stations are most easily identified by the parking lots that surround them.

Local Leaders Council

Councilmember Hans Riemer on the challenge of creating attractive urban areas in Montgomery County, MD

Rockville Town Square
Rockville Town Square, in Councilmember Riemer’s district of Montgomery County, MD. Photo by Dan Reed via Flickr.

Councilmember Hans Riemer has a problem. Residents of the greater Washington, DC metro area increasingly want to live in attractive, high quality, urban neighborhoods—but there aren’t enough of those neighborhoods in his home district of Montgomery County, MD, to meet the demand.

“Cities are reviving and becoming incredibly attractive places to live,” says Riemer, a charter member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We’re seeing the impacts of that in Montgomery County. Where people used to prefer the suburbs, they now want to live in cities.”

Local Leaders Council

Cambridge Main Street wanted to support local businesses—and new zoning is helping to make it happen

Downtown Cambridge
Main Street in downtown Cambridge, MD. Photo by Eli Pousson, via Flickr.

It took a golf course to make the city of Cambridge, MD, reconsider how it was planning development.

The 1,000-acre project would have added 3,200 homes to Cambridge, a city of just over 12,000 people on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore. After several rounds of city approval followed by fierce public opposition, the Maryland Board of Public Works purchased 70% of the land back from the developer and committed it to preservation.

“That experience was a major impetus to rewrite the City’s comprehensive plan,” said City of Cambridge Planner Anne Roane. In 2008 the City began the process of updating its plan for growth. And city planners weren’t the only ones excited about the new initiative.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Charm City works to improve housing, transportation, and jobs


Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Kevin Labianco via Flickr.

The Baltimore metropolitan area is planning for the region’s future development thanks to a Regional Planning Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

The Opportunity Collaborative for a Greater Baltimore Region spans a diverse landscape ranging from the dense urban streets of Baltimore to the rural, pastoral landscapes of Northeastern Maryland. The project encompasses Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Carroll County, Harford County and Anne Arundel County – an area home to more than 2.5 million people.

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Join us next week for "The Next Generation of Transit: the key to Montgomery’s green future"

Join Smart Growth America’s President Geoff Anderson, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Montgomery County Sierra Club next week for a panel and discussion about transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and smart growth solutions in Montgomery County, MD. Get the latest updates on Montgomery transit projects and join fellow advocates for discussion about smart growth issues in the county.

When: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Silver Spring Civic Center,
One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910
RSVP: Click here to register for this free event.
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PlanMaryland the fiscally responsible way to build a better Maryland

Years from now, I want my grandchildren to enjoy living in Maryland as much as I do. That’s why I support PlanMaryland.

I want my grandchildren to enjoy the beauty of Patapsco Valley State Park and the bustling downtown of historic Annapolis. I want them to be able to eat food grown in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and to find a job in Maryland. I want Maryland to be a place they will love.

PlanMaryland will help make sure all these things are possible. On Monday, Governor Martin O’Malley signed an executive order on this long-term growth plan for the state, and I completely support his action.

PlanMaryland will save Maryland taxpayers billions of dollars of infrastructure costs, including $1.5 billion on necessary road repair. In addition, the Plan will help Maryland avoid $29 billion in road and school construction costs over the next 25 years, which would be needed to keep pace with current trends.

PlanMaryland will stimulate economic development and revitalization in towns, cities and other existing communities. Many of Maryland’s communities have empty storefronts and vacant homes, and PlanMaryland will help bring people back to these places. The Plan will also support 600,000 new jobs in Maryland by the year 2035.

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White Flint Partnership looks to smart growth strategies to become a vibrant destination

Property owners in Montgomery County, Maryland, want to make their neighborhood great, and they’re using smart growth strategies to do it.

The White Flint Partnership is a group of Montgomery County property owners working to create an amenity-rich, new urban center for the area that is engaging, accessible, connected, convenient, green, safe and vibrant.

Governor Parris Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, spoke earlier this fall at the White Flint Partnership’s second Speaker Series event. Governor Glendening spoke about the principles of smart growth and these strategies are currently being used around the country. He also discussed demographic changes projected to take place in Montgomery County in coming years, and how those changes will impact the area’s development needs. Investments in transit and sustainable design, Glendening explained, are just some of the ways White Flint can meet future demand and improve quality of life for existing residents.

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The benefits of Washington DC's Metro

Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates Metrorail and Metrobus service in the region, brings large, tangible benefits to the DC-area economy. A new report from WMATA, prepared by AECOM and Smart Growth America, details just how big these benefits are.

“WMATA Regional Benefits of Transit” (PDF) examines Metro’s impact on several aspects of the DC-area economy, including how public transit supports businesses, workers, families, visitors, and the region’s largest employer, the federal government.

The report found that Metro is an outstanding investment of public funds. Access to Metrorail significantly boosts property values and tax revenues for the city. Real estate located within ½ mile of a Metrorail station represents 27.9% of the area’s tax base on just 4% of its land, including 68.1% for DC, 15.3% for Virginia, and 9.9% for Maryland.

Metro supports businesses, and economic activity tied to Metro’s presence is critical to the success of the region. Claude Anderson of the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Association is quoted in the report’s executive summary:

We have come a long, long way from the bad old days of a deserted, dilapidated and dangerous downtown during the evening hours and few destination retail and entertainment neighborhoods. The establishment and growth of vibrant areas such as Penn Quarter, Ballston, U/14th Street corridors are directly attributable to transportation access for patrons, visitors and employees.

Collectively, Metro saves DC-area families $342 million per year in car operating expenses. Home values may increase near rail stations, but families save significantly on transportation costs each year.

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Septic tanks and development policy, or: How to win over one of the world's toughest audiences

It is not often that a desk-bound policy wonk can grab the attention of a pre-schooler by talking about her day, but I have found a new way to connect with my four-year-old twin boys: toilets, and where stuff goes when you flush them.

To be more specific, my work recently has dealt with septic tanks and their challenges. The fascinating world of state sewage regulation got even more fascinating last summer when Maryland’s Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Treatment gathered to work through the complex relationship between septic systems, sprawling subdivisions, and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland’s Department of Planning estimates that each new household that relies on a septic tank will generate about 23 pounds of nitrogen per year, compared to just 2.5 pounds per household connected to a wastewater treatment plant. If the coming decades’ growth follows current trends, roughly 26% of new households coming to Maryland will rely on septic systems. That quarter of the population will be responsible for three-quarters of the future nitrogen pollution load. What’s so bad about nitrogen? When it leaches into soil and drains into the Chesapeake Bay, nitrogen encourages the growth of algae that use up oxygen and block out sunlight, eventually creating dead zones.

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