Green Infrastructure Master Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
*Updated May 12, 2021*
- What is green infrastructure?
Anne Arundel County, green infrastructure refers to the network of natural, ecological, recreational, historic and cultural areas that assist in improving water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat while sustaining a community’s social, economic and environmental health.
Our green infrastructure network will incorporate our most significant natural areas, including streams and their adjacent wetlands, floodplains, and steep slopes. The network will include Federal, State, and County parks; public and private lands acquired for preservation including agricultural, forest conservation, floodplain, wetland, and open space easements; trails; historic and cultural resources; and land zoned Open Space. The County will also include contiguous woodlands that meet the minimum criteria for evaluation during the land development process.
When it comes to mapping the County's green infrastructure network, the Office of Planning and Zoning will identify hubs and corridors, as well as additional areas that are significant for making connections. A "hub" is a natural area of at least 250 acres with a higher ratio of interior versus edge habitat. A "corridor" is at least 200 feet wide and serves as a link between hubs. Corridors must connect to hubs and cannot dead end, unless the corridors themselves are large enough to serve as hubs. The network will also include areas of contiguous forest at least 75 acres large that are connected to the Network.
- What is the purpose of the Green Infrastructure Master Plan?
Green Infrastructure Master Plan will be used to protect and create an interconnected network of the most significant remaining natural lands in the County. The Plan will guide identification, implementation, and tracking; conservation, park, and open space acquisitions; and strategies for floodplain and stormwater management. The Green Infrastructure Plan supports the policies and development pattern of the General Development Plan.
- Is the Green Infrastructure Plan different from the Greenways Plan?The Green Infrastructure Master Plan will update the Greenways Master Plan, originally adopted in 2002, which established the County’s Greenways Network and a series of related goals and action items. "Green Infrastructure" is a more precise term—incorporating the lands discussed above—and is used to steer this plan since "greenways'' are commonly interpreted as linear protected areas, typically along a river.
The updated Green Infrastructure Master Plan improves upon but does not depart from the 2002 Greenways Master Plan. The update will make use of better data, technology, and analysis to interconnect environmental ecosystems with active and passive recreational sites, corridors, scenic areas, and historic and cultural resources in order to meet challenges related to land use conflicts, and human health and well-being.
- How does the Green Infrastructure Master Plan relate to the General Development Plan and the upcoming Region Plans?The Green Infrastructure Master Plan helps implement the General Development Plan. Plan 2040, the latest update of the General Development Plan, was adopted by the Anne Arundel County Council on May 3, 2021. It includes several policies, and strategies related to the Green Infrastructure Plan, including:
- Policy NE3.1: Increase the amount of protected land in the County.
- a. Update the County’s 2002 Greenways Master Plan to refine the data and analyses using more current technology. Include contiguous tracts of forest greater than 75 acres and, to the extent feasible, priority retention areas listed in the Forest Conservation Ordinance, trails, agricultural easements, historic and cultural resources, all other environmental features that are protected under Article 17 of the County Code. Include contiguous corridors connecting these features.
- c. Develop acquisition priorities consistent with land and forest conservation goals in the GDP, Region Plans, the greenways plan, watershed studies and subwatershed priorities for preservation. Allow for the incorporation of other environmentally valuable areas into acquisition priorities..
- e. Target flood-prone properties, including non-tidal wetlands, and areas at risk from sea level rise as priorities for easement or fee simple acquisition.
- Policy NE3.2: Continue expanding the network of protected corridors of woodlands and open space as set forth in the Greenways Master Plan.
The Green Infrastructure Plan will provide baseline information to support the development of Region Plans. The Network map and plan recommendations will provide a guide for Region Plans as they plan for the future of their communities.
- Policy NE3.1: Increase the amount of protected land in the County.
- Why isn't every park and natural area in the County included in the Green Infrastructure Network?The Green Infrastructure approach to conservation planning focuses on protecting the largest natural areas and connections between them. That approach is based on research on conservation biology and landscape ecology to protect wildlife and aligns with scientific principles to protect streams. Neighborhood parks, small woodlots, and other local open spaces are important for maintaining environmental health and quality of life even if they are not in the Green Infrastructure Network. Those smaller spaces are addressed through other policies and programs, including subdivision requirements for open space and recreation areas, forest conservation regulations, and the Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan.
- Does the Green Infrastructure Master Plan create new regulatory requirements?
No. The County Code includes regulations to protect natural features, including, but not limited to wetlands, streams, floodplains and forests. The regulations apply across the entire County. The Green Infrastructure Master Plan complements those regulations by identifying priority areas for voluntary land protection.
- Can I build on my property if it's in the Green Infrastructure Network?
The Green Infrastructure Plan is not a regulatory document. Yet, many of the natural features included in the Green Infrastructure Network are currently protected by regulations in the County Code that might already pertain to your property.
In the development review process, County staff make recommendations to property owners and their design teams to create plans and projects that protect the Green Infrastructure Network and minimize negative impacts. Please refer to the following Articles to gain a better understanding of regulations in the County Code that could affect your property:
- Forest Conservation Regulations (Article 17-6-300)
- Natural Features Regulations (Article 17-6-400) including non-tidal wetlands, streams, steep slopes, and non-tidal floodplains
- Cultural and Historic Resources (Article 17-6-500)
- Chesapeake Bay Critical Area (Article 17-8)
- Bog Overlay (Article 17-9)
- Floodplain Management (Article 16-2)
- Will the County buy my property if it's in the Green Infrastructure Network?
Anne Arundel County and private land trusts actively seek to acquire conservation easements or fee simple ownership of land with outstanding natural features. These property acquisition efforts prioritize protection of property located in the Green Infrastructure Network. These programs seek voluntary, willing property owner.
- What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a method of protecting our natural resources and preserving scenic open space and natural lands. A landowner who agrees to an easement waives most or all of the rights to develop and subdivide the land now and in the future, but still maintains ownership of the land, including the ability to use it, sell it, and pass it on to their heirs. The organization accepting the easement, such as a land trust or a government agency, agrees to monitor the land to ensure compliance with the terms for conservation (Source: Md. Department of Natural Resources).
Landowners may choose to donate easements as a conservation measure to protect and preserve land from development. Donors often want to ensure that family lands can pass to future generations. There are also potential tax advantages associated with the donation of an easement. Interested persons should visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or contact their County Council Representative for more information.
- Can my property support wildlife and water quality, even if it's not in the Green Infrastructure Network?Yes! There are many excellent resources to help you manage your property to improve wildlife habitat and water quality. Those resources might include suggested plantings for pollinator habitat, lawn and soil care, and forest stewardship, among other ideas. Here are a few places to get started:
- What about natural land that is outside of the Green Infrastructure Network, such as my neighborhood open space or woodlot?
While the Green Infrastructure Network is focused on preserving large natural areas, protection of smaller open spaces is also important. Private land trusts, such as the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, Magothy River Land Trust, and Crownsville Conservancy can acquire conservation easements on properties outside of the Green Infrastructure Network. Community Associations and Homeowner Associations can also use their resources to acquire and manage natural lands. Acquisition by a local Community Association or Homeowner Association may be the most effective way to protect small woodlots in neighborhoods.
In addition, the County protects smaller open spaces through other related programs including:
- Department of Recreation and Parks acquisition and development of neighborhood parks
- Bureaus of Watershed Protection and Restoration restoration projects
- Development regulations including Forest Conservation, Natural Features, and Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas regulations
- How will the Green Infrastructure Plan address equity?Planning staff will conduct analysis of the Green Infrastructure Network to examine how the different watersheds in the County compare to each other. This analysis will complement the Proximity and Equity Analyses conducted as part of the Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan. The Green Infrastructure Plan will include recommendations to promote access to nature and a healthy environment in areas where that is lacking.
- How will the Plan address climate change?
County staff are evaluating data on sea level rise and flood risk in the process for identifying areas to include in the Green Infrastructure Network. Land and forest conservation is critical to carbon capture, reducing the effects of heat islands, and mitigating damage from inland and coastal flooding, among other resiliency benefits. The Green Infrastructure Plan will complement parallel efforts to protect the County from the effects of climate change. Please refer to pages 46 and 47 of Plan2040 Vol. I for more information about the County's policy priorities around climate change.
- How is land conservation in Anne Arundel County funded?
The primary funding source of land conservation in Anne Arundel County has been Program Open Space, a State of Maryland grant program. Program Open Space is funded by a 0.5% property transfer tax. The County has also received federal grants through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration programs. The County uses its own general obligation bonds to fund land conservation. Funding is typically approved for land acquisition through the Greenways, Parkland and Open Space line item in the County Capital Budget:
The draft Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Budget released by the County Executive's office proposes establishing a $1 million in new Greenways funding for land acquisition to meet Plan2040 conservation goals. This is a significant increase in funding compared to previous years since the adoption of 2002 Greenways plan.
Additionally, fee in lieu payments collected through the development review process related to forest conservation regulations and open space requirements in the subdivision regulations have been used to conserve land. Fee in lieu payments have funded grants administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust to non-profit organizations like the Scenic Rivers Land Trust to fund protection for forested lands and tree replanting.
Agricultural and Woodland Conservation Easements are funded through separate state and County programs focused on agricultural preservation.