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Sustainable Communities Designated Communities Announced by Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and Maryland Department of Planning

Applications from Allegany, Carroll, Harford and Prince George’s County chosen

BALTIMORE, MD (November 7, 2011) – Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Raymond A. Skinner and Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Richard E. Hall today announced the designation of five sustainable communities under the state’s Sustainable Communities Act of 2010. The designated sustainable communities are Aberdeen, Cumberland, Hyattsville, Laurel and Westminster.

"Existing communities in rural, suburban and urban areas are smart places to grow and focus scarce local and state resources for revitalization," said DHCD Secretary Raymond A. Skinner. "The Sustainable Communities program aims at helping existing communities, such as the five announced today, to create clear action plans for revitalization. As these plans unfold throughout Maryland – with Transit Oriented Development, new business facades, improved opportunities for affordable housing in revitalized towns and cities – I believe that a clear vision for sustainable communities will emerge."

"Sustainable Communities strengthens the progress Maryland has made in smart growth and sustainable development," said Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard E. Hall, who chairs the Governor’s Smart Growth Subcabinet. "These five designees are demonstrating their commitment to sustainable communities: sound environmental protection, strong local character and sense of community, solid economic development and innovative housing and development strategy. When I talk to people about GrowthPrint and PlanMaryland, these are the types of communities that I describe."

A Sustainable Community Area designation reflects that a municipality or County has identified a specific local area in need of revitalization and has created a comprehensive strategy to encourage and guide local investment. The comprehensive Sustainable Community strategy aims to increase economic, transportation and housing choices as well as the quality of the local environment.

Background on the proposals of the five designees follow.

2011 Sustainable Communities Designees

City of Aberdeen – Harford County, Maryland
The proposal from Aberdeen is to develop a Transportation Oriented Development site around the Aberdeen train station, preserve a small town and historic feel of the community. The proposal also calls for the conversion of US Route 40 and other streets into "green boulevards and streets." This project will help redevelop the commercial district and develop senior and workforce housing.

City of Cumberland – Allegany County, Maryland
The proposal from Cumberland is to modernize the city’s road system and encourage more pedestrian and bike travel. It also promotes the use of bio-retention structures, such as rain gardens and rain barrels. This project calls for a more efficient transportation network as well as improved recycling and energy efficiency program. Frostburg University will provide workforce training in order to attract green jobs. Cumberland’s proposal includes the preservation and protection of historical resources which will strengthen regional tourism. The project also calls for the development of a public/private partnership to reduce the number of vacant houses in Cumberland.

City of Hyattsville – Prince George’s County, Maryland
The proposal from Hyattsville is to encourage high-density TOD development around the city’s two metro stations, and improve pedestrian, bike and bus connections around the stations. The project will facilitate infill development of vacant and blighted properties and create a plan for reusing and occupying vacant buildings and spaces. In addition Hyattsville proposes to increase home ownership rates in the city and improve residential property maintenance.

City of Laurel – Prince George’s County, Maryland
The Laurel proposal includes enhancing transit to access employment and regional shopping facilities and incorporates green technology provisions in all proposed developments. The city proposes to encourage the redevelopment of grey fields and vacant properties for mixed use and provide a wide choice of housing options for all residents. The city also will move forward on attaining an Arts and Entertainment district designation.

City of Westminster – Carroll County, Maryland
The Westminster proposal calls for connecting parks and open space with a system of trails, pedestrian pathways and bike routes and continuing an upgrade to water and waste water treatment plants. In addition, the city proposes to implement business development strategies, façade improvements and a neighborhood beautification plan. Westminster will complete small-scale affordable and market rate housing projects already underway.

Location within a designated Sustainable Community is a threshold requirement for the Community Legacy and Neighborhood BusinessWorks programs. The following are additional program incentives or benefits for projects located in a Sustainable Community:

Community Legacy Program: Community Legacy provides local governments and community development organizations with funding for essential projects aimed at strengthening communities through activities such as business retention and attraction, encouraging homeownership and commercial revitalization.

Neighborhood BusinessWorks Program: Loan program provides gap financing, i.e. subordinate financing, to new or expanding small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Sustainable Communities throughout the State.

MDOT Sidewalk Retrofit Program: This program helps finance the construction and replacement of sidewalks along state highways. The program covers 50 percent of the cost for approved projects. For projects located in a Sustainable Community, the program covers 100 percent of the cost.

DBED Job Creation Tax Credit: Enhanced incentives are provided in Sustainable Communities. The maximum tax credit rises from $1,000 to $1500 per employee. The threshold to qualify drops from 60 to 25 jobs created.

Sustainable Communities Tax Credit: (formerly the Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit). Expands the credit (10% commercial credit) to include qualified rehabilitated (non-historic) structures in Sustainable Communities beginning in fiscal 2012. Non-historic structures will be eligible for 10% of the appropriated amount in a fiscal year.

Per the Sustainable Communities Act of 2010, all Community Legacy Areas, Designated Neighborhoods, TOD Zones and BRAC Zones became Sustainable Communities effective June 1, 2010. Former Designated Neighborhoods and Community Legacy areas will sunset unless local governments apply for and receive continued designation. All Designated Neighborhoods and Community Legacy areas designated prior to January 1, 2008 will expire on June 1, 2012. Community Legacy areas designated after January 1, 2008 will expire on June 1, 2013.

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The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development works with partners to finance housing opportunities and revitalize great places for Maryland citizens to live, work and prosper. To learn more about DHCD programs, log on to www.mdhousing.org.

News updates also are available by following DHCD on Twitter (www.twitter.com/MDHousing) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/marylandhousing).

For more information:

Erlene Wilson
Director, Office of Communications and Marketing
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development410-514-7704
wilson@mdhousing.org

Andy Ratner
Maryland Department of Planning
410-767-4544

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