Maryland APA

The Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association

Welcome to the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association's Website. Our mission is to make great communities happen in Maryland by offering continuing professional development and other valuable services to our members that will enable them to excel in their practice. We advocate for excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing our members with the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change. We hold a bi-annual conference, produce a quarterly newsletter, offer continuous opportunities to network, and experience new and varied educational opportunities across the state.


35th Annual MPCA Conference

Joseph Griffiths
Local Assistance and Training Manager
Maryland Department of Planning

The Maryland Planning Commissioners Association Conference is Coming to Gaithersburg this Fall.

Where is a Planning Commissioner or a member of a Board of Zoning Appeals member to go when seeking training and guidance on this critical issue? A great place to start is the Planning Commissioner Training Course, created following the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009. The course, available both online and in person at the Maryland Municipal League (MML), Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), and Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) conferences (as well as on demand for interested jurisdictions), contains modules on Planning 101, Comprehensive Planning, and Smart Growth in Maryland.  It is an excellent first step, but what about the citizen planner who wants to take the next step? This is where the MPCA offers help.

The MPCA is a statewide educational organization of municipal, county and regional planning commissioners and boards of zoning appeals members. The MPCA Board and its members strive to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders through planning, environmental protection, historic preservation, and growth management. Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Baltimore, the MPCA is dedicated to the continuing education and professionalism of Maryland’s citizen planners. All members of a planning commission/board and/or board of appeals in Maryland counties and municipalities (incorporated cities, towns and villages) that exercise planning authority are automatically members of the MPCA.

The MPCA is hosting its 2018 conference at the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26. The theme for this year is Citizen and Professional Planners: A Vital Partnership. Planning staff and the boards with whom they work are the frontline of solid community development in Maryland, and successful collaboration between them is essential. MPCA is working with APA MD, a comparable support organization for professional planners in Maryland, to develop a session dedicated to best practices and strategies for strengthening the “vital partnership” throughout the state. The MPCA Board is still finalizing the conference agenda, but likely session topics include:

  • Open Meetings Act Training

  • Resources for Revitalization and Redevelopment

  • Planning Commissioner Ethics and Ex Parte Communication

  • The A Better Maryland State Development Plan

  • Nuts and Bolts of Being a Planning Commissioner

In addition to these sessions, on Thursday October 25, City of Gaithersburg staff and a team of experts will delve into the legacy of New Urbanism in Maryland, 30 years out, and provide a tour of the City’s Kentlands, Crown, and RIO Washingtonian developments. These tours will offer an inside look at some of Maryland’s most enduring projects from the individuals who helped create them.

In the Summer of 2017, the MPCA conducted an outreach project around Maryland, consisting of an online survey and a series of regional meetings. Check out the results here. The membership spoke loud and clear. It wants more training and best practices, as well as strategies for working more closely with its professional planning staff. The MPCA Board heard you and organized the 2018 conference in response to these desires. It is also developing a draft outline of an organizational strategic plan, which will be discussed during the annual meeting on October 26 at the conference. The MPCA and the Maryland Department of Planning encourage everyone interested in quality planning in Maryland; citizen planners, professional planners, elected officials, citizens, and more, to join us in Gaithersburg when the leaves are orange and red.

Conference registration is now open. To learn more about the MPCA or the conference, or if you are interested in a sponsorship, please contact Joe Griffiths at 410-767-4553 or at

NSF Smart and Connected Communities Workshop

Erin McMichael

Business Manager, APA-Maryland

Smart Cities and West Baltimore Summary and Community of Stakeholders Matchmaking Workshop

All walks of life were present at the NSF Smart and Connected Communities Conference, where avid listeners gathered to hear research about the plans for how to provide technology resources to Baltimore City residents.

Baltimore City Deputy Chief of Operations, Shonte Eldridge, focused on the Smart Cities Initiative, an idea to make Baltimore a more tech-friendly city. Many ideas that are already being put into place were mentioned, such as interactive touch screen data info booths that are being placed in the downtown Baltimore area. These data booths provide information including things like live events, restaurants open for business, and shops to visit while visiting the area. These booths are to be placed in areas like West Baltimore, providing relevant information to area residents, such as food markets and even nearby hospitals.

Willow Lung-Amam, Assistant Professor or Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Maryland, College Park, surveyed the neighborhoods directly to find out their needs. Asking questions like: What are West Baltimore residents' top challenges and priorities for improving the neighborhood? How do residents currently access and use technology? What barriers and limitations do West Baltimore residents face in accessing technology? 

One of the biggest concerns expressed by residents in the West Baltimore area is Internet access. Many residents do not have Internet data available on their phone, or even at home. Libraries and schools have wifi, though it's limited in time. Making life easier for residents is the key. They need help with finding jobs, using GPS to go places, and doing homework after school. The target audience? Those who use technology the most: kids and teenagers.

One of the proposed ideas was to create a network all over the city of Baltimore where residents would have access to free internet wifi. This is a long-term solution, as that could take years to develop. However, interesting ideas about how to make this wifi dream a reality were things like solar trash cans. You've seen them in downtown Baltimore as well, they look good and close on their own. A solar powered trash can that is connected to wifi could help in the interim with the free wifi issue. Kids could do homework on the bus, while walking to go to school, or while waiting at the bus stop. The only complaint from people is that they thought the smell would be too offensive to be standing around waiting for wifi to kick in. Understandably, however, it was mentioned that the trash cans used downtown have proven more effective with trash clean up and blocking out smell than the standard trash cans you see around the city. It also didn't seem like an important enough reason not to provide an essential need to city residents. Trash cans are on almost every corner and would serve dual purposes. It seemed one of the more realistic ideas that would be in effect in the near future.

Seema D. Iyer, PhD, Associate Director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at JFI, which collects, integrates and disseminates community-based quality of life indicators, such as the Vital Signs report. Her research focuses on the role of data sharing in collaborative public innovation processes. These vital signs essentially gather important data, or "take a pulse" of what's going on in Baltimore's neighborhoods. This data would help to integrate the kind of programs you would see developed for neighborhood planning and advocacy.

Katherine Klosek, Director of Applied Research, GovEx at Johns Hopkins University, focused on how data research could better serve Baltimore area residents as well. She showcased what other cities were doing and how we could piggy back off of some of these incredible ideas, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. She works to help local governments rethink the way a city should work and translates policy recommendations and promising practices into action.

Much was to be digested from the topics presented at this event. Current data research coupled with current policy planning could truly bring Baltimore to the status of a data- driven smart city. We look forward to seeing these ideas coming to fruition.

Check out pictures from the event here.


Below are resource links:

·       Johns Hopkins GovEx report: First Things First: Laying the Foundation for a Smart City Guide

·       City of Baltimore 2018-2023 Digital Transformation Strategic Plan

·       Viewfinder: Baltimore in Pieces - UMD Student Film inspired by Conversations with Residents

·       BNIA Smart Cities Data Resources (soon to include a crowdsourced Community Data Toolkit (under construction at Baltimore Data Day on 7/13):