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Taneytown discusses Sustainable Community application

TANEYTOWN - A group will be working feverishly to finish a document to apply to be a state-designated Sustainable Community.

If Taneytown does not receive this designation by the end of the year, it will close the door to some funding sources available only to Sustainable Communities, according to Jim Wieprecht, the city's zoning and code enforcement officer. At the Taneytown City Council workshop Wednesday evening, most council members vocally supported the decision to finish the application to submit this month, as the state is accepting them in June and in October.

Sustainable Communities aim to conserve resources, provide green spaces and recreational parks, offer transportation and more to its residents, according to the Maryland Department of Planning. Only specific portions of Taneytown would fall under the Sustainable Community designation: downtown, the city's older areas, two townhouse communities, Memorial Park and Taneytown High School Park, according to Wieprecht, who is in charge of crafting the application.

In 2010, Gov. Martin O'Malley passed HB475: Smart, Green and Growing legislation that establishes sustainable communities to "strengthen reinvestment and revitalization in Maryland's older communities," according to the state's website. They're allowed to be eligible for job creation, neighborhood business works programs and more, Wieprecht said.

Before the law was passed, portions of Taneytown held the label of "Community Legacy." The new law grandfathered them into the Sustainable Community designation, which expires at the end of this year, Wieprecht said.

In the past, the city has not been successful at garnering a substantial amount of money from the state with this designation, although it was awarded funds to add street furniture, according to Wieprecht.

Yet, the ability to apply for such funds from the state is important for Taneytown, according to Mayor James McCarron Jr. If the opportunity is lost, "it'd be a big deal," he said.

Applying in June allows the city to re-apply again in October if a state Department of Housing and Community Development's Smart Growth subcabinet doesn't approve the application, according to Wieprecht.

McCarron said he'd received a letter from the state cautioning municipalities against applying in October, as the state is anticipating receiving a deluge of applications at that time.

"We could be in jeopardy of losing our current status as a Sustainable Community if they didn't get us reviewed in time," McCarron said, "so it would be good, better, if we could get it submitted [soon]."

Even though the application is still a working document, Councilwoman Diane Foster said - and many council members agreed - that it'd be best to submit it this month.

"It seems to me in light of that, we should do all that we can to push this through in June," she said.

Wieprecht and his committee will be working hard to fine-tune the application, so the council can vote on a resolution to submit the document at its meeting Monday evening.

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