Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis, 2010. Photo from Donna Pool on Flickr.

Priority Preservation Issues for the 2020 Legislative Session

01/08/2020
By Elly Colmers Cowan

Today marks the start of the 440th Session of the Maryland General Assembly, and Preservation Maryland is prepared to be the voice of historic preservation in Annapolis. We have a full slate of priorities in support of historic tax credits, community revitalization, preservation funding, and smart growth.

2020 Priority Preservation issues

Historic Footer Dye Works building, historic tax credit project in Cumberland, MD.

Historic Footer Dye Works building, historic tax credit project in Cumberland, MD.

Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

The revitalization of Maryland communities is fueled by the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit program. This Session, Senator Katie Fry Hester and Delegate Stephanie Smith have introduced the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2020 (SB978/HB862) that will strengthen this effective community redevelopment tool.

Historic Tax Credits Work for Maryland

As of FY20, Maryland invested only $9M in the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit program for the year for the entire state. By comparison, Virginia invests nearly $100M annually, and West Virginia invests $30M. Maryland is falling behind.

Preservation Maryland and our supporters have worked diligently to make policy changes to strengthen this essential revitalization tool. Unfortunately, without more funding for the program, those positive changes have little opportunity to make the intended impact for communities across Maryland.

Community Redevelopment and Historic Preservation

We recognize the positive impact that historic preservation projects can have for the surrounding community. This new legislation will help encourage private investment in historic revitalization projects . The forthcoming bill would:

  1. Increase funding for the program to $15M for FY 2022, followed by a stepped increase to reach full funding at $30M in FY2025,
  2. Allow the state Historic Tax Credit to be transferred outside of development partnerships to help decrease the cost of completing projects and provide an additional financing option for preservation redevelopment. This would go a long way to offset the damaging impact on community redevelopment the change to the federal Historic Tax Credit that came out of recent tax reform has had and costs the state nothing, and
  3. Extend the authorization of the program through 2028.
Poplar Hill, Prince George's County, Maryland, 2015.

Poplar Hill, Prince George’s County, Maryland, 2015.

Preservation Grant Funding

The Maryland Historical Trust’s preservation grant programs had gone completely unfunded since FY10. Because of our advocacy, in FY18, funding was restored to the Capital and Non-Capital grant programs. Current funding continues to be at starvation level, with the need far outstripping the available funds. We must and will do more to support those safeguarding our state’s rich and unique history.

Current Preservation Grant Program Funding: $900k
total FY21 Request: $1M

  1. Capital Grant Program (“Bricks & Mortar”)
    FY20 Budget: $600k
    FY21 Capital Request: Maintain funding
    This program funds capital upgrades and repairs to certified historic structures owned by non-profits and local governments. It is operated as a competitively-awarded program with statewide reach and impact.
  2. Non-Capital Grants (Planning & Research)
    FY20 Budget: $300k
    FY21 Operating Request: $400k
    This program is funded via the state operating budget and awards competitive grants for architectural and archaeological research, survey and documentation, public education, and planning projects. The program directly supports local government efforts to preserve places important to their constituents.
Pleasant View Historic Site, Montgomery County. Photo from North Potomac News.

Pleasant View Historic Site, Montgomery County. Photo from North Potomac News.

African American Heritage Grant Funding

The African American Heritage Grant Program provides direct grant support for capital (“bricks & mortar”) upgrades and repairs to sites representing Maryland’s African American historical experience. As with the Capital and Non-Capital Grant programs, the grant requests for this program are consistently greater than the funding available.

CURRENT AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE GRANT FUNDING: $1M
TOTAL FY21 REQUEST: $3M

Aerial Photo of Emmitsburg, MD.

Emmitsburg, MD.

Smart Growth Legislation

Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Program [SB105/HB205/]

Over the last 25 years, the state has completed five major studies on the feasibility, need, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed route transit service to Southern Maryland, and despite the conclusion of every study repeatedly confirming that the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project would vastly improve the quality of life for Southern Maryland residents, promote economic development consistent with smart growth, and advance the State’s emissions reduction goal, the Maryland Department of Transportation has not moved forward with the project. SB105/HB205 would require the State to complete the necessary steps to complete the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project and commit the necessary funding.

Local Consent of Toll Road Construction

This legislation would extended an authority currently only granted to eastern shore counties, which would require that local governments approve of state toll roads before their construction in their jurisdictions. Toll roads have the potential to significantly impact growth patterns, and often historic resources, making this legislation a priority for the smart growth and preservation community alike.

Cyclists in Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area. Photo by Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Cyclists in Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area. Photo by Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Program Open Space

In 1969, the Maryland General Assembly created Program Open Space through the institution of a transfer tax of .5% on every real estate transaction in the state. Since then the program has been responsible for:

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority is funded by Program Open Space. Preservation Maryland supports full funding of Program Open Space and the Heritage Area Authority, opposes any attempts to shortcut, reduce, or cap the program in any way, and supports the repayment of previous diversions from the fund.

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