Resources and Tools

For the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) and jurisdictions around the state, spring and early summer are Local Government Annual Reporting season. While that might not sound like something to get excited about, it is a vital time of year for reviewing development progress, initiating conversations about the direction of Maryland’s communities, and reconnecting state and local planning officials.

The Land Use Article of the Maryland State Code requires that Planning report on growth-related changes and permitting activity submitted annually by each jurisdiction with planning and zoning authority. This includes tracking of residential (all jurisdictions) and commercial (those jurisdictions reporting more than 50 new residential units) development, as well as the number of acres preserved through locally funded agricultural land preservation programs in Maryland’s counties. Planning compiles and analyzes this information to measure the state’s progress toward meeting its smart growth goals, such as concentrating new development in Priority Funding Areas. The table below shows the number of counties and municipalities that have submitted annual reports over the last four years. After a dip in 2014 and 15, reporting surged upward in 2016. Planning encourages all Maryland jurisdictions to submit reports by July 1, 2017.[1] Only local insight can help paint an accurate and helpful picture of planning efforts across the state.

Planning strives to make the annual reporting process as simple and straightforward as possible. Responding to feedback from previous reporting efforts, Planning created both short (fewer than 50 new residential permits) and long (greater than 50) form templates to help jurisdictions submit the requested information in a clear and concise manner. Jurisdictions should expect reminder letters in their mailboxes in April, which will also include these forms. Digital copies, as well as previous annual reports, can be found on Planning’s Annual Report Tools webpage. In addition to the annual report, jurisdictions also need to complete and submit a 5-year Report at the midway point of their 10-year comprehensive plan review cycle. Don’t worry, we created a form for that as well. As part of this 5-year Report, jurisdictions are encouraged to identify obstacles in state law that discourage smart growth.

The annual reporting process is more than pushing papers and stacking forms, it is also a time for meaningful review and dialogue. The tools described above ask thought provoking questions such as “Did your jurisdiction identify any recommendations for improving the planning and development process within the jurisdiction?” These questions are designed to spark a conversation between planning staff and local officials about development in their communities, like a regular check in. “Is this what our plan intended?”, “Should we revisit our zoning ordinance?”, How are our growth areas coming along?” This dialogue is the catalyst of great communities, and Planning encourages as much as possible. In fact, we want to join the conversation too. Perhaps spring and early summer are also the season of reflection.

[1] 23 Counties, Baltimore City, and 108 municipalities are required to submit annual reports to the Maryland Department of Planning