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Sustainable Communities Program Wins Award for Excellence in Sustainability from the American Planning Association

Kevin Baynes accepts an award from the American Planning Association honoring Maryland's Sustainable Communities Program

Kevin Baynes accepts an award from the American Planning Association honoring Maryland’s Sustainable Communities Program.

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development was recognized by the American Planning Association at the organization’s annual national conference in New York City earlier this month. The association’s Sustainable Communities Division honored the the department’s Division of Neighborhood Revitalization in its “Leadership in Sustainability” awards category, recognizing the Sustainable Communities program for its proactive and cooperative efforts to promote economic, social, and ecological sustainability across the state. Through the Sustainable Communities program, the department has led collaborations among various state agencies, facilitated sustainability planning among local governments, and invested in projects that support sustainable development. The department was one of just five organizations around the country to receive the an award for sustainability from the association.

The Sustainable Communities Program is a place-based designation that enables access to a “toolbox” of state programs and resources that support holistic strategies for community development, revitalization and sustainability. To participate in the program, local governments are required to identify a geographic area in need of revitalization and develop an “Action Plan” outlining a comprehensive strategy to promote growth and development in existing older communities. To date, 103 urban, suburban and rural communities in Maryland have received a Sustainable Community designation.

In 2016 the Sustainable Communities application was reorganized and simplified to better facilitate community sustainability planning and to establish a framework for developing implementation strategies. The action-oriented application now clearly focuses on six key areas of sustainability and helps local governments develop implementation strategies that either address challenges to sustainable development or build on existing community strengths.

In the five years since the passage of legislation to create the Sustainable Communities program, the department has invested over $70 million to support more than 350 capital projects and initiatives in designated communities through its core revitalization programs – Community Legacy, the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative, Project C.O.R.E., and the Strategic Demolition Fund. In addition to traditional redevelopment and revitalization activities typically funded by the department, local governments have used Sustainable Community resources for completion of stormwater retrofit projects, removal of impervious surfaces, the launch of curbside recycling programs, infill development projects, and new zoning approvals such as Traditional Neighborhood Design and Adaptive Reuse Floating Zones to encourage sustainable development.

The American Planning Association is an independent, nonprofit, educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. The association includes a professional institute for certified planners, 47 chapters, 21 divisions, and special memberships for students. The goal of the association’s Sustainable Communities Division is to help planners engage in and collaborate on innovative approaches to sustainability planning.