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Allegany County Listening Sessions, December 18, 2017

What We Heard in Response

Regionalism  ♦ Concerns Over Previous Mandates ♦ Mapping Support ♦ Concern over Growth Tier Map RequirementsEconomic Development ♦ Youth ♦ Housing ♦ Infrastructure  ♦ Engaging the Public and Volunteerism ♦ Training and Education ♦ Transportation  ♦ Community  ♦ Funding ♦ Neighboring Jurisdictions ♦ State Agencies ♦ General

The comments below represent the statements or points of view of one or more individuals who participated in the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) “A Better Maryland” Development Plan Listening Sessions. These comments do not represent any official position or policy of MDP or any other State agency, nor do they represent any official position or policy of any local jurisdiction or local planning agency.

Regionalism

The strategic location of Allegany County is both a strength and weakness. It’s centrally located and proximate to major urban centers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but the county must compete with the less regulated states of PA and WV

Allegany County supports the concept of more regional planning approach, recognizing the influences that West Virginia and Pennsylvania have on its economy

The State Development Plan should recognize regional differences throughout the state. Declining and negative growth parts of the state should have different standards than growing areas. Meeting the same standards in Allegany County is hindering economic development, and we cannot compete on even playing field with Pennsylvania and West Virginia that don’t have to meet these requirements

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Concerns Over Previous Mandates

One size does not fit all. We should not apply the same laws to declining population areas like Allegany County, as compared to growing areas in the center of the state

Stormwater management requirements are a problem for small businesses, especially given the topography and rocky terrain of Allegany County. A new pharmacy had to build its stormwater system to accommodate the storm runoff coming from the State highway. This makes it nearly impossible to attract new development

There needs to be an easy State regulation waiver policy for areas like Allegany County

The PFA process needs to be far more flexible and scalable to the development conditions, especially in rural and slow growth areas of the state.

Allegany County requested a waiver from the State’s MS4 Permit requirements due to its combined stormwater and sanitary sewer systems. MDE said it would consider this request

Allegany County is concerned about the “Accounting for Growth” policy and its impact on the county, given its low growth rate. They are concerned this policy will discourage growth

Regulations in Maryland are counter-productive and just push development into West Virginia

The State needs to not be a hindrance to promoting economic development. Something is better than nothing. We want to be responsible, but growth needs to be a priority.

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Mapping Support

There is a need to work with the state in updating the parcel maps. There are some problems with the versions of the parcel level digital maps. But, there are also opportunities to collaborate and share data

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Concern over Growth Tier Map Requirements

Allegany County is pursuing a Tier IV Exemption and requested Maryland Department of Planning’s assistance to complete process. The LaVale zoning district has been amended, so they would like to restart the Tier IV exemption application process

Only 20 new housing building permits were issued in the county last year

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Economic Development

Recreation and tourism are two of our economic development strengths

Economic stagnation is a concern. It’s a multifaceted issue involving the need for improved city/county communication

The economy and jobs drive everything else in the county. Without a strong economy, you don’t have the resources to address all the other important quality of life factors

Economic development and revitalization is most important issue to be addressed in the State Development Plan:

Focus on supporting existing communities and investing in aging infrastructure

About 25% of growth is not in correct places, and needs to be more accountable to furthering the local vision

There are competing economic development policies between the county and the towns

Regulations are killing development opportunities in the county

The county recently revised the LaVale zoning regulations to accommodate the market needs of national chain stores and it helped change business attitudes and interest in developing in the area

Allegany County is strategically located mid-way along I-68 corridor. The county is doing an I-68 Target Industry study to examine redevelopment potential along the interchanges of I-68. They are looking at issues such as visibility and access, and want to re-purpose some of the interchanges to promote redevelopment and attract new commercial businesses – such as hotels and restaurants

The County has a well-developed fairgrounds activity program that is nearly year-round

Access to broadband is very important concern in Allegany County, as it is in other rural parts of the state. It is difficult to get information about whether a place can get access to broadband. Maryland does have a project to get broadband service to all the industrial parks in Western Maryland. But, outside of those parks, getting the “last mile” connection of broadband is difficult. Internet service providers are not interested in providing the service to rural areas at a reasonable cost

The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport is major economic resource and great opportunity to attract new businesses and good paying jobs, even though the regional airport is just across the border in West Virginia

Maryland’s corporate tax rate when compared to West Virginia’s tax rate makes it difficult to attract new businesses. All they do is locate right over the state line and take advantage of Maryland’s amenities and quality of life

Frostburg State University has a huge economic impact on the region, estimated to be annually $173 million across Maryland and $121 million in Allegany County alone, based on a 2013 study. Now that impact is closer to $180 million

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Youth

Need to rebuild the local population with more young professionals. The County has an opportunity scholarship that helps to attract and retain young professionals

The County is losing its college-age population. When they go away to school they don’t come back, and we are not able to retain the young professionals coming out of FSU

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Housing

Workforce housing is needed

Housing is still expensive in Allegany County

Loss of quality housing is a problem and there is an increase of blighted units

Approximately 300 homes have been taken out of the floodplain through demolition

There is a concern about deteriorated housing in Cumberland and its impact on the gateways to the community.  We need to address this problem

West Virginia College of Law is doing a windshield survey of blighted properties to help address the blight problem in Cumberland

There is also a problem with absentee landlords.  Lawns are not getting cut and you cannot identify the property owner

There is a loss of affordable units because the units are not being maintained and falling into disrepair and uninhabitable

Many of the Cumberland residential lots are very narrow; often needing several adjacent lots to encourage redevelopment

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Infrastructure

Allegany’s infrastructure was originally designed and built to accommodate a larger community. Now, they have a declining population and have challenges maintaining their infrastructure. They are only using 50% of their water and sewer capacity

Aging water/sewer infrastructure is a problem, but until development comes we don’t have the funding to pay for the needed improvements, and without improved infrastructure we cannot attract the development

85% of the people in the county are served by public water and sewer. There is need to get as many customers on the system as possible to help share the cost of the system

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Engaging the Public and Volunteerism

The people of Allegany County support their community and maintain strong community partnerships

Individual citizens are still the most influential in making a positive change

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Training and Education

Employment opportunities are a challenge:

There is a lack of quality jobs and work force

Work force lacks the needed education for the 21st century jobs that might come to Allegany County

Educating the populous is important for new opportunities

There is an interest in providing more education to local elected and appointed officials on how to provide good government services, i.e. budgeting and capital improvements planning. Elected and appointed officials are often not well equipped to do the administration of local government and can benefit from more training

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Transportation

Improved access to industrial park sites is important

I-68 is great for easy-west movements, but there needs to be improvements to the north-south routes like US 219 and US 220

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Community

The rich history of the county is one of its greatest strengths

Cumberland has lost 50% of its population since the 1950s

Allegany County has safe single-family detached neighborhoods:

But, there is still a need for affordable housing and the diversity of the housing options can be improved

Allegany County needs to determine “who we are, and what is our vision? Cumberland also needs to determine what it wants to be in the postindustrial era

The City of Frostburg has a very good working relationship with Frostburg State University. They have established good communications and are closely coordinating public services and sharing resources

Over the past 24 months, the City of Frostburg has seen 21 new or modified businesses locate in the City

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Funding

Funding for local initiatives is the top priority strategy (with business investment the 2nd highest) to implement the State Development Plan

Allegany County is investing in development so far from the County’s central area. Why? What is the County’s top priority

Need to get back the Highway User Revenue levels back to pre-recession levels

Need to revisit MDE’s funding percentages for water/sewer projects. The level of local funding has gone up and needs to be reconsidered, particularly for rural and slower growing parts of the state

For Frostburg, funding of infrastructure is always a challenge, but they have worked together with the university and small businesses to get streetscape improvements.

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Neighboring Jurisdictions

West Virginia and Pennsylvania are competing to attract development with Allegany County. But, people and businesses in WV and PA are coming to Cumberland and Allegany County to take advantage of our cultural amenities

There are occasional development priority conflicts between Allegany County and Cumberland, which results in competition that does not benefit either one

The State Development Plan should address how to improve collaboration between local jurisdictions and how it can help implement both state and local plans

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State Agencies

Rural counties like Allegany have a significant amount of its land tied up in state parks, which means no tax dollars

There are also problems getting permits approved from state agencies, such as getting permission from the Maryland Historic Trust to paint columns on a Historic County building (Allegany County Library)

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General

Assets:

The Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Frostburg State University

Potomac River

I-68

Challenges:

Declining population

Finding skilled labor force

Need to overcome antagonism between the County and Cumberland

Revitalization efforts

Aging Infrastructure

Limited transportation options

Things at State level have gotten better in recent years. More access to State agencies, and agencies are much more responsive to local requests

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