Takeaways From Annual Hunt Valley Business Forum Public Policy Symposium

Barry Sheehan, Greenberg Gibbons Commercial; Danielle Bridge, Hill Management Services; Jennifer Busse, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston; Denise Buchman, Executive Director, Hunt Valley Business Forum (HVBF); Stuart Kaplow, ESG Legal Solutions; Steve Lafferty, Baltimore County and Danielle Beyrodt, Vice President and COO of Hill Management Services and Chair of HVBF Board of Directors.

An overview of the Climate Solutions Energy Act, and how the law passed last year by the General Assembly is expected to impact Maryland-area real estate stakeholders and businesses, highlighted the Hunt Valley Business Forum’s Annual Public Policy Symposium, held at the Executive Plaza complex at 11350 McCormick Road in Hunt Valley. Stuart Kaplow, Principal, ESG Legal Solutions provided commentary on the act which requires the State to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent by 2031 and achieve net zero by 2045. Barry Sheehan of Greenberg Gibbons Commercial discussed the importance of developing a safety strategy at businesses and retail centers and Steve Lafferty, Baltimore County’s Director of Planning provided an update on the County’s 10-year Master Plan. Attended by more than 100 local business leaders, the morning event was moderated by Jennifer Busse, Partner, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.

Denise Buchman, Johnny Olszewski, Jr. and Danielle Beyrodt

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. welcomed the audience and stated “Hunt Valley remains one of Baltimore County’s premiere business locations” and, “the Hunt Valley Business Forum, with its tremendous vision and hard work, continues to demonstrate a combination of passion, leadership and advocacy that benefits all businesses in the region.”

Maryland has enacted the most rigorous state law in the country

According to Kaplow, in Senate Bill 2022 528, Maryland has enacted the most rigorous state law in the country and “it will have significant impact on and change the trajectory of every business in the state,” most specifically owners and investors of commercial real estate. He stated that “every building consisting of 35,000 square feet and larger must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, beginning in 2030, which represents the first step towards the achievement of net zero emissions by 2045.” Kaplow said, “basically gas is gone and electric is here,” and beginning January 1, 2025, every building owner, 35,000 square feet and larger, must report the greenhouse gas emissions number to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski

Kaplow added that, “beginning in this year’s General Assembly, different groups and stakeholders will be looking to soften the levels contained in last year’s bill,” as well as change the exemption status of different buildings. For instance, all public and private kindergarten to high school schools, historic buildings and those used for manufacturing and agriculture are not required to participate in this exercise, but houses of worship are. That is subject to a change in the law.

It has been noted by others that residential, commercial and industrial real estate presently accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation, at 35 percent, represents the largest contributor.

Kaplow emphasizes that the “first number reported to MDE in 2025 is the most important,” because for most it will be the first time they calculate greenhouse gas emissions and it may well set a base line against how reduction efforts will be measured. He explains that “calculating that number is more art than science” and he urges building owners to elicit the support and guidance of third-party providers.

Businesses urged to have a safety plan in place

Sheehan of Greenberg Gibbons explained how the combination of security cameras, enhancing lighting and cooperation with local law enforcement officials is the proper approach for large-scale mixed-use business communities such as Hunt Valley Towne Centre. Most importantly, owners should have protocols in place to deal with any emergency situation and that these plans should be updated often and shared with neighboring business and related stakeholders.

Work proceeds on the Baltimore County 10-year master plan

“As Baltimore County continues to get built out, we are compelled to look at existing projects that can be candidates for retro-fitting, such as what Greenberg Gibbons accomplished at the Hunt Valley Towne Centre,” said Baltimore County’s Lafferty. “The enclosed mall was rethought and reimagined and this approach might be appropriate for Security Square Mall, as well as other assets positioned along Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road. We don’t want to abandon these projects but, rather, it is everyone’s best interest to improve them. Overall, we support mixed-use and transit-oriented developments.”

The Hunt Valley Business Forum is the chamber of commerce for businesses in the greater Hunt Valley area. For more information and a list of upcoming events please visit www.hvbf.org