by Kristen Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
Maryland’s citizen planners volunteer endless hours to their communities. Unfortunately, this civic dedication often goes overlooked. However, each year at MPCA’s annual conference, the Executive Committee recognizes the contributions of exceptional citizen planners and/or entire planning boards (planning commissions, boards of zoning appeals, historic district commissions) from around the state. This year was no exception!
Efforts deserving praise include: comprehensive planning; zoning code updates or rewrites; engaging the community in planning efforts or education; economic development initiatives; focused neighborhood revitalization; historic preservation; collaboration with professional planners and the planning community; inter-jurisdictional coordination; and other unique planning programs and initiatives.
At a ceremony on Day Two of the conference held in Frederick City, the MPCA, in partnership with Robert McCord, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning, was gratified to honor four citizen planner nominees, including two individuals and two planning boards/commissions:
The staff of the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) nominated Chairman, Tom Liebel, for his many contributions in more than ten years of service to historic preservation in Baltimore City.
During his tenure, Liebel oversaw the designation of more than 40 new Baltimore landmarks, three new interior building landmarks (such as the interior of the Senator theater), and four new historic districts. He advocated for the City’s Historic Tax Credit program through three renewal cycles, a celebrated program that has helped restore more than 3,000 properties and has leveraged more than a billion dollars in rehabilitation investment.
Liebel also spearheaded an overhaul of the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance that created a Preliminary Landmark List, a Baltimore Inventory of Historic Places, and clarified the commission’s role in reviewing city-owned properties. He oversaw several major updates to the city’s Historic Preservation Design Guidelines, including guidelines to address lead-based paint hazards (some of the first in the nation) and for alternative materials.
As a principal architect at Mosely Architects, Liebel applied his expertise in the adaptive reuse of historic industrial buildings to the betterment of thousands of projects. Outside of his role as chairman, Leibel promoted Baltimore’s history and architecture through his involvement in programs like Doors Open Baltimore, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Historic Resources Committee, and the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Partnership for Building Reuse.
Eric Holcomb, Executive Director of CHAP, presented the award, and about Liebel’s service said, “As CHAP chairman, Tom Liebel created a welcome and supportive environment for new staff and commissioners and showed respect for all applicants appearing before the commission. His leadership over the past ten years was critical in forwarding historic preservation in Baltimore City.”
Through his work on the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) and several working groups, Jerry Pesterfield helped Anne Arundel County develop policies promoting smarter growth, more effective environmental protections, and greater fiscal responsibility.
Pesterfield served as PAB Board Chairman from 2013-2021. He participated in community meetings and guided PAB review of the latest update of the Anne Arundel County General Development Plan, Plan2040. His leadership helped build consensus in support of revisions to the draft plan and helped promote short term actions on affordable housing, renewable energy, electric vehicle infrastructure, and resiliency to environmental challenges such as sea level rise.
During his tenure, Pesterfield provided guidance for the Odenton Town Center Plan and numerous functional plans, including those for land preservation, parks and recreation, and water and sewer infrastructure. In various working groups he also offered leadership on key water quality policies, including the conversion of septic systems, stormwater management fees, and recycling programs. He provided detailed analysis and review of capital budgets as part of the annual review process and via his role on the Spending Affordability Committee, lending critical insight and a sound financial perspective to both.
After retiring in 2004 from his position as a corporate vice president of information technology in the food industry, Pesterfield moved to Anne Arundel County to be near family. His objective was to be involved with and give back to community and non-profit organizations. He says that “getting involved…has been a wonderful learning experience about the county and area where we live. This involvement has been equal to if not more rewarding than my more than 40-year work career.”
Cindy Carrier, AICP, Anne Arundel County Planning Administrator in the Long-Range Planning Office of Planning & Zoning, presented Jerry Pesterfield with his Citizen Planner award certificate.
City of Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee
The MPCA recognized 11 citizen planners for their participation in the development of the City of Brunswick Conservation District Ordinance:
Kelly White (Chairperson)
The main goal of developing the Conservation District was to preserve historic structures in the downtown area without creating a full historic district; viewed by some in the Brunswick community as a more daunting and controversial option. The City of Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee (Committee) met weekly over a year to develop the Brunswick Conservation District; a very intense schedule for a citizen volunteer committee
Committee members reviewed existing legislation, met with planners from other municipalities (including Frederick and Rockville), and consulted with staff from Preservation Maryland. The resulting document was discussed and changes were made in response to input received in workshops with citizens and business owners. Following a formal legal review, it was submitted to the Planning Commission and then the City Council for approval.
Brunswick City Councilman, Andrew St. John, who presented the award to the Committee said, “We are very proud of the work that this group put in on what started out as a very controversial subject but resulted in a document that all parties agreed with and supported.”
Harford County Historic Preservation Commission
For the creation and adoption of the first ever Harford County Historic Preservation Guidelines (Guidelines), a multi-year project (2020-2022), The MPCA recognized seven citizen planners:
Carol L. Deible, Chairperson
Daniel G. Coates, Co-Chairperson
Dr. Iris Leigh Barnes
Philip T. McCall
Eric W. Polk
Christina R. Presberry
Jacquelyn M. Seneschal
The Historic Preservation Guidelines enhance the preservation of the places that make Harford County unique. Members of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) served on a subcommittee with county staff and an architectural firm to determine best practices for historic preservation.
Topics ranged from general repair and replacement to sustainability enhancements, as well as the nomination and designation of local historic landmarks and districts. The resulting guidelines are flexible and realistic, recognizing the complexities of balancing preservation with the needs of modern society.
The full HPC reviewed the draft guidelines, offered feedback, solicited public comments, and voted to adopt them. The guidelines are a tool for use by the HPC and county staff when reviewing proposed changes to locally designated properties, as well as a reference for property owners, designers, and contractors. Municipal planning departments and HPCs may also adopt the guidelines to create consistency throughout Harford County among local preservation programs.
The adoption of the Historic Preservation Guidelines fulfills a major historic preservation goal of the county’s Harford NEXT master plan and significantly advances its historic preservation program.