Baltimore County Legislates Green

Date: May 26, 2010

Recent and pending Baltimore County legislation signals the County's awareness of the growing sentiment and demand for sustainable development. Specifically, the County Council recently passed a bill amending the environmental benefit option within the county's Planned Unit Development ("PUD") process and introduced a bill proposing amendments to the property tax credits available for high performance homes.

  • The environmental benefit component of the PUD process: By passing Bill 5-10 in February, the Council incorporated the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Green Building Standard (NGBS) as an option for demonstrating a project's environmental benefit. The inclusion of a community benefit is required for a PUD application. An environmental benefit is one of three potential types of community benefits - the other two being a land use benefit (higher quality architectural design or higher quality building materials) and a capital improvement benefit.
  • Property tax credits available for high performance homes: On May 3rd, the County Council introduced Bill 43-10. While property tax credits were already available for high performance homes via 2008 legislation, Bill 43-10 proposes to shift the focus from reliance on the LEED rating system to methods of measuring the amount of increased energy efficiency achieved by renovations or construction.

Currently, the amount of tax credit permissible is linked to whether the subject residential structure achieves a Silver, Gold or Platinum LEED certification. Bill 43-10 proposes that the percentage tax credit will instead be equal to the percentage of increased energy efficiency achieved.

The LEED standards will be dropped entirely from this statute. Instead, the amount of increased energy efficiency will be measured by a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater or a certified passive house consultant using an approved building modeling system (which is defined in the bill as a software program approved for HERS or the passive house planning package designed to measure energy efficiency of improvements made to residential structures). The modeling for multi-family housing structures may alternatively be performed by a certified American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) professional.

While the current law provided for a duration of three years for the tax credit, the proposed bill permits a duration of up to five consecutive years if the residential structure's energy efficiency is designated carbon neutral. Bill 43-10 is set for public discussion at the County Council's June 1st, 2010, work session, with a vote on the bill slatted to occur on June 7th, 2010.