Cecilton earns Sustainable Community designation
— The county’s southernmost town has become its newest Sustainable Community, state officials announced this week.
Cecilton is the seventh municipality in the county to earn the designation, which will allow it to tap into new grant opportunities. Elkton, Chesapeake City and Port Deposit earned the distinction in 2011 while Perryville, Rising Sun and North East all earned it in 2013. While Charlestown is now currently the only town without the designation, a group of citizens is working toward the goal.
Started in 2010, the Sustainable Communities program, overseen by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, provides local governments with a framework for promoting environmentally, economically and socially responsible growth and development.
As part of the program, local officials evaluate their own community’s strengths and weaknesses, identify implementation partners and strive for the tangible long-term goals of their municipalities. To help them achieve that, the Sustainable Communities program provides access to state grants, loans and tax credits for which the municipalities would not otherwise be eligible.
On Tuesday, Cecilton Mayor Joe Zang said it was a bit of a whirlwind process for his town to earn the distinction, especially considering the retirement of its town administrator, but it was made easier with the support of state officials.
“We are very excited that it happened so quickly,” he said, noting officials had been working on the application since the spring. “We followed their lead and listened carefully to do what we needed to do. They do a tremendous job in educating the town on the process, because they want to see you be successful.”
Zang said that the support Cecilton saw from the Department of Housing and Community Development was emblematic of the change he’s seen in state government under the Hogan administration.
“The administration is focused on outreach into the smaller, outlying communities,” he said, noting it’s a change from the O’Malley administration years, which he believed focused on bigger cities and municipalities. “They know we’re here and they want to give us the tools to be successful.”
Now that Cecilton has earned the Sustainable Community designation, Zang said he hopes to tap into newfound sources of state funding, especially to make quality of life upgrades for residents.
“It does open up new opportunities, especially for small towns, because we just don’t have the discretionary funding that some of our larger colleagues might,” he said. “Getting lowinterest loans or grants for projects is one way we can keep the costs down for the taxpayers.”
Among the projects that Zang is eyeing is a senior living complex on town-owned land off Route 213 near the Dollar General and water tower. The town has been partnering on the project with Home Partnerships Inc., which completed the North Street Senior Residences in Elkton, among other projects.
The town recently reviewed preliminary designs of the complex, which includes the possibility of some retail shops as well.
Zang said that if he is re-elected next year he has a “broad view” of upgrades he hopes to see realized for the rural town without growing it significantly.
Joining Cecilton in the latest round of Sustainable Communities is the Town of Cheverly, in Prince George’s County; Long Reach Village, in Howard County; the Town of Mardela Springs, in Wicomico County; the Town of New Market, in Frederick County; the Town of Sharpsburg, in Washington County; the Town of Vienna, in Dorchester County; and the Town of Williamsport, in Washington County.
To date, the program has designated 103 Sustainable Communities, comprising 102 municipalities and 60 unincorporated areas, as Sustainable Communities contain more than one locality.