Delegate introduces bill to give Hancock “urban renewal” powers

by Geoff Fox

Town Advisor Bill Valentine presented Hancock officials with a few updates and new items during his portion of the February town meeting last Tuesday evening, February 8.

Valentine told town officials that Del. Mike McKay has introduced HB 0543 to the Maryland Assembly. The bill is seeking blight clearance and “urban renewal authority” for the Town of Hancock.

McKay introduced the bill on January 21. He introduced a similar bill for Williamsport the same day, Valentine said.

The bill would grant the Town of Hancock the authority to exercise “urban renewal powers” in areas zoned for commercial use. If passed, the bill would give Hancock room to proceed with “blight clearance” – the removal of dilapidated and structurally dangerous structures from public areas — and to make redevelopment plans according to the Maryland Constitution.

Such powers would also authorize the town to “levy certain taxes and issue general obligation bonds and revenue bonds to carry out urban renewal powers.”

One of the “urban renewal powers” that would be granted if the bill passes would be for the town to acquire properties within a redevelopment zone, including through the tool of eminent domain. That means properties within an area designated for “urban renewal” could be purchased, taken or torn down as part of a public development project.

The proposed bill would take effect October 1, 2022. The bill is currently on its first reading in the Environment and Transportation Committee.

Valentine said getting rid of the blight along Main Street is something the town does indeed need and “it’s a good bill.”