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Maryland Adds Four New Sustainable Communities

Two Allegany County communities, along with one in Prince George’s County and another in Queen Anne’s County, are the newest additions to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Sustainable Communities Program. Since 2010, the department has designated 109 Sustainable Communities. The program provides local governments with a framework for promoting environmentally, economically and socially responsible growth and development in Maryland’s existing population centers. Participating local governments receive access to funding programs from a number of state agencies, including grants, loans, and tax credits.

Prince George’s County – Berwyn Heights

Located in the Indian Creek valley, Berwyn Heights is home to 3,100 people and was incorporated in 1896. The town is best known for its diverse architecture, which ranges from split-level houses made popular in the 1950s and 60s to stately Victorian homes. This includes the O’Dea House, a pattern book home first constructed in 1888 that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town blends its wealth of historical buildings with a modern vision. A designated Tree City USA community for more than 20 years, Berwyn Heights is making major improvements in energy efficiency. The town has partnered with Pepco to replace inefficient lighting in several town facilities with LED lighting, and also used the Smart Energy Community grant to replace two HVAC systems, leading to a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption. Berwyn Heights has made additional improvements that have enhanced the town’s walkability and recreational features, including bike lanes.

Allegany County – Lonaconing 

Home to the only remaining intact silk mill in the United States, Lonaconing is a small town with rural character. Its historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Lonaconing Furnace, a blast furnace for iron built in the 1800s. The former mining town is near many natural and recreational amenities, including Dans Mountain State Park. The town is in the process of installing a community garden that will include an area for composting, and also aims to expand its parks, green spaces and trees along Main Street and establish a weekly farmer’s market at the San Toy Theater site. By working with the Maryland Historical Trust and Preservation Maryland, they hope to facilitate the purchase and rehabilitation of the silk mill and intend to use the space in a community-oriented capacity.  

Allegany County – Westernport

The small town of Westernport, incorporated in 1859, can be found along the George’s Creek Valley. Once a major center for the United States coal industry, Westernport is home to two sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including a bridge and an archaeological dig site. The town hopes to improve water quality and attract young families and retirees alike by removing blight, improving aesthetics, promoting in-fill development and increasing senior services. By working with the Rural Maryland Council and local nonprofits, the town hopes to develop a parklet and establish and promote a weekly farmer’s market and community garden. Additionally, the Town is interested in attracting and retaining small businesses through economic development programs, such as commercial façade improvement programs and entrepreneurial training.

Queen Anne’s County – Church Hill

Located near Southeast Creek, the Town of Church Hill is the birthplace of Congressman Joshua Seney, who represented the state of Maryland in the Continental Congress and second district of Maryland in the House of Representatives in the late 1700s. Incorporated in 1876, the town was once the site of one of the earliest documented water mills on the central Eastern Shore. Church Hill is also home to four sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including two homes, a theater, and a church. They hope to make Southeast Creek a prominent part of the town experience by developing a town-wide hiker/biker trail, increasing the tree canopy, and performing stormwater outfall retrofits and shoreline restoration. The town has plans to promote its Main Street by developing a façade program, installing public arts and creating events that bring residents and visitors alike to the area. In partnership with Washington College, Church Hill plans to install public art in the cultural district and use the local theatre for more community-wide events.