Catonsville's designation as sustainable community gets boost from Council

Catonsville's bid to qualify for special state funding as a "Maryland Sustainable Community" received a boost last week as the Baltimore County Council passed a resolution Nov. 19 to support the designation.

Catonsville is one of four Baltimore County communities seeking to be designated as a "Maryland Sustainable Community." The others are Greater Dundalk/Sparrows Point, the Pulaski Highway Redevelopment Areas and Hillendale/Parkville/Overlea.

These four communities were chosen because of planning already ongoing to bolster the local economy and affordable housing while providing more transportation choices, such as bike trails, according to Andrea Van Arsdale, director of the county's Department of Planning.

"Now we can take a comprehensive look at neighborhoods," she said.

The application process is designed so local jurisdictions can focus funding to build the local economy, protect historical and cultural resources, provide a mix of land uses, affordable housing and jobs and encourage local recreation and transportation access.

The application is only a preliminary step toward receiving state funds.

It's a fairly new process, approved by the General Assembly in 2010, and 27 communities have already been designated sustainable communities, according to Kevin Baynes, director of community programs for the state's Department of Housing and Community Development.

These are the first applications to come from Baltimore County, he said.

Baynes noted that he was happy to see the Frederick Road corridor nominated. "It has a lot of potential," he said, adding that neighboring Ellicott City was recently named a sustainable community.

Decisions on the applications are expected in the first quarter of 2013. A team of representatives of state agencies, from transportation to natural resources, reviews every application and sends those it approves to the Smart Growth Sub-Cabinet for its approval, probably in February.

Once a community is named a Maryland Sustainable Community, the county may apply for funding, Baynes said.

A total of $42 million in funding for fiscal 2013 has been set aside for the Community Legacy Grant program, Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Project, Maryland Department of Transportation's Sidewalk Retrofit Program, Maryland Bikeways, MDOT Community Safety and Enhancement Program, Neighborhood Business Works and the Department of Business and Economic Development's Job Creation Tax Credit.

Some of the funds are available only to Sustainable Communities, while others, including the sidewalk and bikeways programs, are more widely available but offer incentives or extra benefits to sustainable communities.

Van Arsdale said the Catonsville area has a number of notable economic development programs already in the works.

These include the revitalization of Paradise and Frederick Road retail areas, housing rehabilitation efforts along Winters Lane and a planning process with Howard County for recreational uses in the Patapsco Valley State Park.

Paradise has seen some improvements, as well, but could profit from additional private and public support for both residential and retail projects, she added.

"Resources are really tight," said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville. "We'll work with the community to continue revitalization. We hope to compete and win."

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