The VPC is supportive of many preservation programs. We are fortunate to live in an area where both the state and the local government have an array of excellent programs for preservation. In land preservation, the premier program in Maryland has been Program Open Space (POS). Few states have the resources that this program provides. Initially, it was the main open space and preservation program. It is funded through a 0.005% (one half of one percent) real estate transfer tax. Any time a property is sold in Maryland, this tax is applied and the funds go into a special account used to fund land conservation and outdoor recreation. The idea behind the program was to set the pace of land conservation on an equal footing with the pace of development. In active real estate years, the program can bring in large sums, $70 million or more. The funds are administered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). For a long while, DNR basically split the fund for two uses: funding local recreation projects and state purchases of public lands for parks and natural resource protection.
As Smart Growth came into the picture and soils and green infrastructure analysis was conducted, it was determined that more funds were needed as incentive to get private landowners to preserve their land. It became obvious that the state could not afford to buy and manage all the land that needed to be conserved. The Rural Legacy Program was started in the mid-’90s, and it began to receive a portion of the POS funding. Since then, the pie has been divvied up in various ways to meet land preservation and Bay restoration goals, including funding in varying amounts for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), critical maintenance at state parks, and a $3 million slice that funds the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (aimed at improving local cultural and historical assets and tourism).
In addition to state programs, counties have an agricultural piggy-back tax that provides funding for smaller pots of local funds, often used to provide the funding match needed for state programs. Baltimore County also typically issues a bond that generates several million dollars over a two-year period for local land preservation funds.
There are a number of programs and organizations dedicated to cultural and historic preservation. The VPC has actively participated in the establishment of several historic districts. There are both nationally designated districts (National Register Historic Districts) and local (Baltimore County) historic districts. A map showing the location of these districts can be found on page 128 of the Baltimore County Master Plan. Locally-designated districts can be more difficult to establish and offer more protection than national districts, but both national and local designations are helpful in protecting the character of an area as well as individual structures.
Baltimore County’s Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) is a good tool for protecting individual historic structures as well as their setting. Structures on the LPC list or within county historic districts are protected from demolition and all exterior alterations are subject to LPC approval.
Another very useful program and tool for historic preservation is the state’s historic tax credit program for rehabilitation projects. The Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program for homeowners is available for single-family, owner-occupied residential properties and is equal to 20% of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures for the project. This income tax credit, which can be significant, can be coupled with the county’s rehabilitation property tax credit for a substantial savings and incentive for homeowners. These programs are detailed and can be explored in more depth at the links below.