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Sustainable Communities’ options considered

Richard D. L. Fulton

(1/19) Emmitsburg could receive revitalization funds if the town Board of Commissioners elects to pursue becoming part of Maryland’s Sustainable Communities Program.

State Office of Community Programs Project Manager Mary Kendall briefed the board on the benefits of the program at the commissioners’ January 18 meeting.

The program is fairly new, she said, having been initiated by legislation in 2010. The legislation evolved from a 2009 review of the then-existing program to re-evaluate its performance "to see what was working and what was not working."

The premise of the program, Kendall noted, is to "create social and economic opportunities in your (local) community."

One of the primary benefits of participation in the program, the manager said, includes support of neighborhood revitalization projects "that contribute to business retention and attraction" and encourage homeownership and commercial revitalization.

While the program may not offer the necessary funding for a proposal, they help an applicant work through the money-seeking process, and offer inroads to other agencies offering aid. such as the state Department of Transportation (which could provide funding for sidewalk repairs along a state highway).

Funding (some of which requires matching funding) is directly available through the program’s Community Legacy project, and can be used for "green improvements" to public facilities, pocket parks and public spaces, main street facades, upper story redevelopment and neighborhood beautification.

Other benefits include tax credits for existing historic commercial and residential structures, rehabilitated non-historic structures, job creation tax credits, and "gap financing" loans on financial shortfalls for approved projects.

Kendall stated that the town’s existing comprehensive plan "seems like a good basis for a Sustainable Communities plan."

Commission President Christopher V. Staiger said, participation "seems like a great opportunity."

"We need to make some progress (on defining town improvements)," he said. "We’re in need of a framework. Maybe the program can give us a little guidance. We need to identify the improvements we want to make. We’re too scattered (with objectives)."

The board of commissioners took no formal action at the meeting, except to direct Town Planner Susan Cipperly to draft a resolution in support to initiate possible participation.

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