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Council approves Sustainable Community designation

Reisterstown's revitalization may gain state funding with the Baltimore County Council's support of Reisterstown's application to the Sustainable Community program, Nov. 18.
Towns designated Sustainable Communities gain access to a variety of competitive state grants and loans, designed to improve smart growth in historic towns, said Peter Conrad, director of local planing assistance in the Maryland Department of Planning. Though council approval only marks a midpoint in Reisterstown's application process, Conrad said it is a vital step in the process.
"What council approval does, is indicate to us that the community has the support it needs to follow through with its proposed projects," Conrad said.
If approved, Reisterstown will join four other sustainable communities in Baltimore County: Catonsville/Patapsco, Dundalk/Sparrows Point, Hillendale/Parkville/Overlea and the Pulaski Highway Redevelopment Area.
Conrad said the program is developed to sustain older communities through investment and encouragement of private involvement.
"We're looking at the types of neighborhoods that have the infrastructure already," Conrad said. "We want neighborhoods the tax payers have already invested in, so we can extend the life of these communities."
Amy Mantay, of the Baltimore County Department of Planning, filed Reisterstown's application to the state in September.
The application process consists of submitting examples of the community's work as well as plans for future revitalization. Conrad said many communities choose to take advantage of the plans they have already written up, treating the designation as an integrated part of their revitalization goals.
"The hope and goal is making one big hoop to jump through that is integrated, instead of a series of smaller hoops," Conrad said.
Mantay said they highlighted the many efforts of the Reisterstown Improvement Association and their Main Street Committee. Projects featured in the application included the efforts to restore the Reisterstown Community Cemetery, the increased focus on town events including Music on Main Street and the new farmer's market, and the sub-committee Clean, Safe and Green's work on their monthly Main Street Clean-Ups.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond, cosponsor of the bill with Councilmen Todd Huff and Ken Oliver, said designation highlights the importance of Reisterstown in the surrounding communities.
"It's about getting the businesses together and up and running," Almond said. "It helps out Main Street. It's another step in the system. It's a big step for Reisterstown."
Conrad said the grants can be used for a wide variety of projects, including mixed-use developments, streetscape programs and facade improvements.
"The more designations a town has, the more it indicates it's a priority," Mantay said. "For instance, Reisterstown is a historic district, a county revitalization district, and maybe one day a Main Street Maryland program. From the state's point of view that says we're dedicated to the area."
Conrad said the agencies do everything they can to work with the communities to be approved for the designation.
"I mean it's in our best interest to see these programs through," Conrad said. "We get everybody involved, because we have a vested interest in making sure everyone's a winner."
In addition to opening the community to funding sources, Mantay said the designation would highlight Reisterstown's place in the state.
"When we come asking for money or for aid, it puts the community in a better place," Mantay said. "They see you have a plan; they see what you're working towards and it puts us on the state's radar."
Mantay said the approval process will take several months and probably be completed between April and June of next year. If approved, Reisterstown will retain its Sustainable Community designation for five years.

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