Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 21, 2021
- What is green infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is a broad term that has been applied differently at different spatial scales and contexts. At the regional scale, it has been defined as a multifunctional network of natural areas and open space. At the local and site scales, it has been defined as a stormwater management approach that mimics natural hydrologic processes such as rain gardens and green roofs. In urban contexts, green infrastructure has also been defined to include small natural features including trees, pocket parks, and community gardens.
The Anne Arundel County Green Infrastructure Master Plan focuses on the connected network of natural, recreational, historic and cultural areas. The County’s Office of Planning and Zoning has mapped the Green Infrastructure Network (Network) by identifying 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. The Network will also include areas of contiguous forest at least 75 acres large that are connected to the Network. This network of hubs, corridors and 75-acre contiguous forests incorporates our most significant natural areas, including streams and their adjacent wetlands, floodplains, and steep slopes. The Network includes Federal, State, and County parks; public and private lands acquired for conservation, including agricultural, forest conservation, floodplain, wetland, and open space easements; trails; historic and cultural resources; and land zoned Open Space.
The Green Infrastructure Master Plan also recognizes the importance of smaller open spaces and natural areas especially in more urbanized areas of the County. The Plan includes recommendations for the County to support increasing tree canopy and access to open spaces in those areas.
- Does the Green Infrastructure Master Plan affect or limit my rights to develop or otherwise modify my property?
No. The Plan is not regulatory. It does not add or enhance any development requirements, or otherwise change or limit your property rights. It will not impact your ability to obtain permits or otherwise pursue improvements to your property.
- If the Plan is not regulatory, then what purpose does it serve?
The Plan identifies the areas of the County that have the most significant, connected natural resources, as well as the areas of the County that have few significant or connected natural resources. One purpose is to support the ability of willing landowners to voluntarily pursue conservation through easement programs that will compensate landowners for deciding to preserve the natural resources on their land. Another purpose is to identify areas of the County where public investment in conservation or the addition of green space will have the greatest positive impact.
- What does being shown in the Network signify?
If your property is shown in the network, it means that your property includes undeveloped forests or fields that are connected to other large natural areas.
- Does the Green Infrastructure Master Plan suggest, grant, or promote public access to privately owned land?
No. Conservation of privately owned land, or the potential to voluntarily pursue land conservation on privately owned land, does not result in public access. The Department of Recreation and Parks and other public agencies can only pursue development and programming on publicly owned land. The Green Infrastructure Master Plan does not suggest, grant, or promote public access to privately owned land. Additionally, conservation easements—which are voluntary, and initiated by willing landowners—do not suggest, grant, or promote public access to privately owned land.
- Does the Plan affect my property tax rate?
No. The Plan is not regulatory, and will not alter the value of your land. Therefore, the Plan will not affect your property tax rate.
- How could being shown in the Network benefit me?
Location in the draft network can support you in voluntarily pursuing a conservation easement today or in the future (see below).
- What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary method of protecting natural resources and preserving scenic open space and natural lands. A landowner who seeks an easement waives most or all of the rights to develop and subdivide the land, but still maintains ownership of the land, including the ability to use it, sell it, and pass it on to their heirs. There are potential tax advantages associated with some easement programs. Interested persons should visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or contact their County Council Representative for more information about this voluntary opportunity.
- Will the County buy my property if it is 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 owners and are dependent on available funding.
- Why are houses and other structures included in parts of the Network?
Private backyards and small woodlots play an important role in providing wildlife habitat and improving water quality. The Green Infrastructure Network Map includes backyards of residential subdivisions if they are adjacent to larger natural areas. The Green Infrastructure Plan does not anticipate that conservation easements will be placed on these properties, but property owners can manage their landscapes to benefit the environment and their family.
In some locations, forests, tree canopy, and other natural features may surround houses, parking lots, and roads. For example, a public park, such as the Patuxent Refuge, may have educational and administrative buildings and parking lots. Properties with conservation easements are categorized as “Conserved” even if they have a house or other structure on the property.
The inclusion of houses and other structures also occurs in the southern, more rural parts of the County. For example, if a property is located in a Rural Agricultural or Residential Low Density zoning district with a structure on a relatively large lot—typically greater than one acre—and green infrastructure surrounds the structure, then the entire property is shown in the Network. If a property is located on the edge of the Network, then the developed areas are typically excluded. This approach recognizes that these connected landscape settings—such as backyards or farmland—provide ecological benefits and that wildlife moves through these areas.
- 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 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.
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.