By Jim Lyons from Edgewater, Maryland
The health of our lands, waterways, and environment is integral to the health of our communities and our economy. This election will determine how we grow, and, ultimately, if we choose to make life in the best place even better.
From the start, Mr. Pittman made protecting our environment; better managing growth; and preparing our citizens and businesses to deal with the impacts of climate change a priority.
First, he established a position of Environmental Advisor and a Citizens’ Environmental Commission to provide expert advice and citizen input into decisions affecting how and where we grow our county.
Next, Pittman focused on protecting the county’s remaining forests and open space. Under the Schuh administration, the County lost over 2500 acres of forests – the highest loss of any urbanized county in Maryland. To repair the damage, Pittman proposed protecting remaining forests and requiring developers replace the forests they cut down. The county’s tree ordinance became a model for other counties. Pittman and his team then worked with the Council to develop a “Green Infrastructure” plan to maintain and restore greenways and conserve 5000 additional acres of forests and open space.
The Pittman administration initiated Plan 2040, a new, citizen-led plan to guide future development in the county, which received Maryland’s Sustainable Growth Award. Plan 2040 provides communities with the opportunity to frame future development through a more transparent and inclusive process. The county’s forest conservation strategy, green infrastructure plan, and an update to the Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan – to provide for more parks, recreation facilities and access to nature – establish the foundation for a more transparent and balanced approach to future development.
To curb impacts on our waterways, Pittman created “blue notices” to stop polluted runoff from building sites. He ended staff approved modifications to building requirements and emphasized that zoning changes “must reflect community-driven planning”. And he followed through by stopping the Enclave at Crofton and a development at Glebe Heights on the Mayo Peninsula.
The county partnered with the Watershed Stewards Academy to launch RePlant Anne Arundel and RePlant Annapolis to restore trees lost to development across the county. The program engaged nearly 1000 residents, including in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Annapolis, and planted 11,000 trees.
Pittman expanded Quiet Waters Park and and Bacon Ridge Natural Area and hiking and biking trails. Acquisition of Crownsville Hospital will provide additional opportunities to expand access to nature and outdoor recreation.
To repair past damage to our rivers and streams, the county’s Watershed Protection and Restoration program partnered with local conservation organizations to treat nearly 4000 acres of impervious surface and restore nearly 6 miles of streams leveraging over $11 million of private and philanthropic funds and nearly $9 million in Federal and State support to offset county costs. The Department of Public Works substantially reduced nitrogen pollution entering the Bay that will save taxpayers $8 million through 2025.
To address the existential threat of climate change Pittman issued an Executive Order committing the county to purchase 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. With Council approval, he created a public-private partnership to build a solar generating plant on the closed Glen Burnie Landfill that will net the county over $3 million in lease payments and generate energy at a fixed price saving taxpayers $6.75 million.
Working with Mayor Buckley, Senator Elfreth, and Delegates Watson and Lierman, Pittman created a Resilience Authority to finance projects to reduce the cost of county and city climate mitigation. This innovative private-public partnership was noted by Moody’s in raising the county’s bond rating to AAA . The higher the bond rating will lower the cost of and future borrowing.
Creativity, coordination, and collaboration have been the hallmarks of the Pittman administration. Partnering with residents, community and business leaders, the county council, and a new governor, legislature, and county council, Mr. Pittman and his team will make “the best place” even better over the next 4 years.