GBC’s Fry: Baltimore City’s “green building” standards well-intentioned but flawed

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The unintended consequences of well-intentioned Baltimore City “green building” standards that will take effect on July 1 may hamper, rather than nurture, city efforts to promote the construction of commercial and residential buildings that conserve energy and reduce their environmental impacts.

The reason? The city law, as currently written, imposes more stringent “green” standards than in most surrounding counties.

Baltimore, Howard, and Carroll counties also have similar “green” provisions in their building codes, but they couple them with substantial property tax credits as an incentive for developers to achieve the higher standards and to offset higher construction costs associated with meeting them.

Unfortunately, in Baltimore City, no property tax credits are being made available to developers for meeting the same “green” building standards. This puts the city, which already has the highest property tax rate in the region, at a further competitive disadvantage.

To make matters worse, the city has yet to finalize new regulations or issue a handbook to developers with details about the new standards. Cultivating the construction of “green” buildings in the city is a desirable goal, but the city is going about it in a way that is more likely to discourage “green” development than to encourage it.

The city’s new “green building” law inadvertently contradicts the state’s “smart growth” policy by making the counties more economically attractive to new growth and development and by impeding the city’s own efforts to grow and expand its tax base.

For any new policy such as this to succeed, two key things must happen. First, the policy must be well-designed to achieve its intended outcome. Second, it must be well communicated to those impacted by it. Neither appears to be the case with Baltimore city’s new “green building” measure.

City leaders should move quickly to re-think and correct these deficiencies before they do more harm than good.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

Comments are closed.