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Somerset County Listening Sessions, December 12, 2017

What We Heard in Response

Concerns Over Previous Mandates ♦ Public Services ♦ Mapping Support ♦ Economic Development ♦ Housing ♦ Infrastructure  ♦ Regional PlanningTraining and EducationTransportation ♦ Environment  ♦ Community  ♦Funding ♦ Neighboring Jurisdictions ♦ State Agencies ♦ Permitting ♦ PlanningRevitalization ♦ Growth

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.

Concerns Over Previous Mandates

Cost of code compliance to meet state regulations is high

Fire and sprinkler systems (mentioned in two meetings)

Yet there is an exception for mobile homes, which doesn’t make sense

Interiors of structures: sometimes façade improvement money for the exterior of structures is available, but not funds to make improvements to the interior of structures. When someone makes a certain level of improvement, dependent upon the assessed value of a structure, it may kick in additional costs and requirements such as floodplain or sprinkler

Lead abatement

1 hr & 2 hr fire separation walls

This high cost makes it very hard to redevelop and revitalize downtowns

Flood insurance hinders building (mentioned by a few participants)

Have heard of and are concerned about new regulations for chicken farming

Septic requirements for critical area housing are too stringent and hinder development

Stormwater regulations should not apply to flat Somerset topography. Would like this conveyed to MDE. MDE should not use the same standards in Somerset that they use in parts on the western shore. MDE needs to be more flexible

More flexibility with historic tax credit program is needed

Critical Areas regulation has limited development and redevelopment

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Public Services

Community outreach and service are lacking in Somerset County. This leads to limited opportunity for basic assistance, transportation, community organization, and helping those in poverty

Majority of civil servant groups are self-serving and biased

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Mapping Support

More GIS training would be helpful

There is a need for mapping assistance to identify blighted housing in the mid-shore area for code enforcement and housing rehabilitation assistance

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Economic Development

The agricultural and water economy, traditional economic drivers in the County, have fallen off

Lack of jobs is a big issue

New vocational school going into Westover will be a game changer and the County is very excited about it

Grassroots cultivation and harvesting of seafood is the greatest value

Economic and employment opportunities are lacking

Too many people do not earn living wages

Lack of a tax base and private investment

Economy is the number one area to focus on in Somerset County because it supports other aspects such as environment and housing. Will also improve property maintenance and enhance cultural opportunities

Business investment will affect positive change in the community by demonstrating that the community is alive, bringing up the tax base, inspiring confidence, and supporting new infrastructure

The state development plan should focus primarily on economic development and revitalization. It could potentially do this by promoting tax incentives, grants, and partnerships

The lack of available natural gas is significant impediment to economic development in Somerset County

Youth are leaving the County because they can’t find jobs or easy access to goods and services

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Need to promote affordable housing, but State regulations make it more expensive

Community housing is not the answer. Affordable family housing is needed

Need to help those in substandard housing. In great need of direct and easily accessible assistance

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Need more collaboration between state agencies when roadwork is being completed. All infrastructure improvements should be completed at the same time

Limited cellular and internet service

Water and sewer infrastructure is prohibitively expensive

Lack of broadband and natural gas for business recruitment

Somerset needs infrastructure investment to compete statewide, specifically natural gas, which stops at Salisbury. Many employers say they cannot open shop in the County without natural gas. The County could put development where it wants it to go if it had natural gas infrastructure

Sanitary Commission expressed concern that MDE has limited their ability to implement projects

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Regional Planning

Maintain and/or increase access to Regional Planning staff

DNR and DHCD worked well together to assist the town in providing information for the local comprehensive plan

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Training and Education

Need for training at regional locations such as in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Historic Tax Credit Financing

The University of the Eastern Shore “attracts” much, much less financial support than the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus. Why?

Schools are key to improving the economy. The perception of Somerset public schools is that they are poor quality

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The Mayor of Crisfield is working with the Department of Natural Resources and the State Highway Administration to allow for unlimited golf cart access in town; especially from the marina, so people can make it all the way to Food Lion. This was a big topic during the MDOT tour meeting, but MDOT has a concern with safety

You need a car to get around. Transit is limited with fewer bus runs

Need more intermodal options and ways to connect to population centers

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Abundance of critical area and wetlands hurts development in the County

Many coastal areas are actively flooding. The land is compromised for farming and housing, especially in the lower lying impoverished areas. For example, most of Deal Island

No curbside recycling is a problem

The quality of the environment affects the entire state, so a state development plan should address it

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Very proud of the Smith Island Vision Plan and the interjurisdictional and intergovernmental collaboration that went into it

Significant history and heritage in Somerset County, which draws people to live and visit

Income disparity in Worcester and Somerset Counties is major issue that needs to be addressed

Remoteness from the city is a plus for the County. This leads to a different mindset with a physical separation. The nature of the County is rural and friendly

The Somerset community has a good relationship between different races, and its diversity is a strength

The traditional waterman culture is a unique resource

Poverty is high in the County and there is a lack of knowledge of and access to services and programs that could help

The grass roots actions of individual citizens affect positive change in the community because it helps bridge gaps

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Somerset County and its municipalities, which are financially challenged, need more grant funding

The County hasn’t fully recovered since the recession

Need for more simplified and streamlined application for accessing funding. Often must pay someone so much to fill out an application that the amount of the grant award is not worth it

Hard to score well on grants with such a small County population

Preliminary engineering for grants is expensive and small municipalities don’t have funding for it

Ironic that a friendly engineer who provides an estimate for free to support a grant application is made ineligible for hiring if grant is awarded. Hard to come by many engineers in small communities. Perhaps state technical assistance in this area could be provided

The formatting of applications and reports (e.g. Maryland DHCD and USDA) is not consistent. It would help if they could be more similar and replicable

Hurricane Sandy led to significant funding

State should provide additional funding to adaptively reuse all the armories that localities were stuck with. The only funding is through MHT and it is too expensive for a municipality to maintain the structures on their own

Please set funding aside for expanding Greenwood Elementary School

Funding is the basis for everything (schools, community initiatives) and the state development plan should focus on funding sources and timelines

Restoration of Highway User Revenue funding

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Neighboring Jurisdictions

Transportation is a big interjurisdictional issue

State development plan could help ensure that the park system is consistent and of high standards across jurisdictions (maintenance, safety, venues)

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State Agencies

Maryland Department of the Environment is a roadblock in Somerset. Priority Funding Areas are also a problem. Would like Planning to help with this

There is not always a positive view of the State in Somerset County

The state development plan should facilitate greater collaboration across the board

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Crisfield is almost entirely in the floodplain, which makes permitting complicated and expensive

Planning and Zoning are rationales for giving citizens the run around and putting up red tape and developing long waiting lists

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Somerset will be updating its comprehensive plan in 2020

The County wants to grow smartly, but it needs infrastructure for that

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More flexibility on Historic Tax Credits

Maryland Historical Trust staff is great, but they cannot always make something work under their own requirements

Section 106 standards are very tough. How can we modify them?

Are there state funds available to help meet these standards?

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Only six building permits for new single-family residential development issued in County in 2016!!

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