Ce­cil­ton earns Sus­tain­able Com­mu­nity des­ig­na­tion

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

CE­CIL­TON

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

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