Cluster of inner Beltway areas eligible for grant money -- Gazette.Net







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A recent state designation for a cluster of inner beltway communities puts them that much closer to funding for new sidewalks, neighborhood trails and their own development projects, according to local government administrations.

The Central Avenue-Blue Line Metro Corridor Plan, a Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission plan was named a “Sustainable Community” on July 16. The designation means the areas will be eligible for certain state grants by 2014, according to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Central Avenue plan focuses on marketing communities near the county’s Blue Line Metro stations for future economic development, linking neighborhoods with trails and altering roads so pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists can share them safely, according to Park and Planning.

Seat Pleasant City Administrator Vincent Jones said any other projects that individual municipalities had fall under the designation. Jones said this would include projects related to the $30 million to $50 million proposed City Center development that would possibly integrate wind and solar energy in its building plans to sustain itself with energy outside of an existing grid.

“It’s within a half mile of the [Addison Road-Seat Pleasant] Metro station and it’s considered a smart-growth development,” said Jones, citing access to mass transit. “I think our residents are going to be excited about that project.”

Capitol Heights had 22 solar panels installed on the roof of the Vivian M. Dodson Municipal Center this spring with help from a $114,000 Energy Efficiency Community Development Block grant, said Town Administrator Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth. The grant also went toward turning the municipal center’s community meeting room into a green demonstration room for residents to tour and look at examples of what they could buy to save on utility costs, she said.

“Very few other inner beltway communities are going to have this designation,” Bailey-Hedgepeth said. “You really have to do a lot to show you’re doing sustainable projects.”

Other county municipalities that have received the same designation this year include Hyattsville, Laurel and Mount Rainier, said Mary Kendall, project manager for the division of neighborhood revitalization for the state’s DHCD.

“We are limited in our resources and so we are always on the lookout for opportunities to leverage our existing funding with grant funding either from the county, state or federal levels of government,” Jones said.

Kendall said communities with the designation can apply for programs such as the “Sidewalk Retrofit Program.” The program — run through the Maryland Department of Transportation — adds sidewalks to state highways such as Central Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, and money spent on improvements can be fully reimbursed with a “sustainable community” designation, she said.

Kendall said having communities band together for an application is encouraged. The municipalities in Port Towns and Gateway Community Development Corp. are examples of towns banding together for one application when they were called “Community Legacy Areas” but now those communities have until Dec. 31, 2013, to reapply for a sustainable communities designation.

“We think they’re really good strategies because municipalities are so small and it just makes sense to coordinate a strategy or plan,” Kendall said.