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PlanMaryland for Dummies: What Is It, Why Do I Care?

Don't understand PlanMaryland? It's a hot topic in Carroll County. Here's why.

Over the next 20 years, there will be nearly 1 million more people, over 400,000 additional households and more than 600,000 new jobs in Maryland, according to the PlanMaryland website.

PlanMaryland is the state’s first plan for sustainable growth and development. It will emphasize planning that encourages Maryland residents to be more efficient and less wasteful of valuable resources, according to the PlanMaryland website.

In a presentation to the Maryland Association of Counties in late June, Gov. Martin O'Malley highlighted the focus of the initiative, including:

  • Strengthen existing cities and communities
  • Reduce tax burdens
  • Protect farmland
  • Preserve natural, historic and cultural resources
  • Increase housing affordability
  • Reduce automobile dependency
  • Increase access to transit, walking and biking
  • Concentrate jobs in existing communities
  • Strengthen economic development
  • Minimize residential land consumption outside of existing communities

That all sounds great, so why would counties consider not supporting such a plan? 

The View from Carroll County

O'Malley has said from the onset that he wants input from citizens and counties but perhaps he didn't anticipate the pushback that might bring. At the local level, some counties decry what they call the plan's one-size-fits-all approach, with one citizen saying it "smacks of socialism."

Many localities are also concerned about costly state mandates and giving up control of local issues to state government.

The controversy has grown to the point that O'Malley and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) announced late last week that the deadline for review and comment is being extended from Sept. 1 to Nov. 7.

In Carroll County, officials say that's not enough time.

As previously reported on Patch, Board President Doug Howard expressed gratitude to the governor for this deferral, but stated that it still leaves inadequate time for proper review.

Carroll’s commissioners are pushing for a full-year extension.

“We haven’t seen the final version yet,” Howard said in a news statement. “There are no details about how the plan will be implemented. We need adequate time to vet the plan with citizens and planning officials throughout the state.”

Chuck Boyd from the MDP recently presented PlanMaryland to the Westminster Common Council.

Council member Paul Whitson said that he would rather see the state offer block grants to municipalities than to build this framework that localities have to fit into. He said he is opposed to the initiative.

Council member Robert Wack said that he sees good things coming out of the plan. 

"When I was in the army we learned that if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail," Wack said. "I agree that we only see benefits from this. If we can improve collaboration and communication with state agencies that we have to work with anyway and we can reduce the amount of conflict we’re getting in terms of differing mandates…it’s a good thing.”

Citizens and Counties Weigh In

Citizens and counties have taken full advantage of the opportunity to share comments and perspective on the PlanMaryland website.

Caroline County posted, "Generally, we feel that the broad themes and visions are consistent with Caroline County's Plans, and that it is a good idea for the State to have their own long-range plan for the State of Maryland. However, PlanMaryland reaches too far into local jurisdiction land use policy, setting forth "one size fits all" policy based on urban/suburban land use issues.

Some of Maryland's western counties are concerned about the different needs of more rural areas that have differing economic development issues. 

Garrett County Chamber of Commerce weighed in with, "The Garrett County Chamber is greatly concerned about the unintended consequences of PlanMaryland as Western Maryland is suffering a different fate than the densely populated metro areas of the state and yet PlanMaryland does not propose an alternate strategy for rural communities that are desperate for economic growth." 

Counties and local organizations have made their voices heard, but Maryland's citizens are speaking up too. An anonymous citizen wrote, "Formation of this plan starts exclusively with the State and the Governor‘s Smart Growth Subcabinet and through the use of a simple model called GrowthPrint. Only after these designations are put into place will localities be allowed to enter into the discussion – obviously too late to alter any existing decisions."

A Carroll County resident offered, "Last Thursday evening, July 28th, PlanMaryland was presented to the residents of Carroll County. 

 A very strong message was sent by the people to the State of Maryland that Carroll County does not want this plan because it smacks of socialism. I only hope someone is listening.

While the need for some kind of plan for future growth is surely a necessity, this is far from what the people would like to see. In my humble opinion, I think the whole thing should be scrapped."

But a quick scan of the posted comments reveals plenty of support for the initiative and its objectives.

One Carroll County resident posted, "I am a resident of Carroll County and an environmental health nurse. Overall the plan is great and I believe the concepts of smart growth, improving access to public transportation, reducing impact on water from septic systems, and walkable communities are sorely needed...DHMH should be included in addressing climate change as it has great implications for public health."

Another anonymous poster advised the MPD to listen to the people instead of developers, "Effective management of land-use is essential if Maryland is going to remain even somewhat green and beautiful. We support the State of Maryland's efforts to implement smart growth policies in land use decisions everywhere in Maryland. No longer should taxpayers subsidize sprawl and unwise development in green fields and along environmentally sensitive rivers, streams and Chesapeake Bay bays and creeks.

We understand that many county elected officials oppose this program only because they object to losing state-subsidized development and the campaign contributions such often accompanies such unwise development. Listen to the people on this issue, not the developers."

Howard County said that it is supportive of the plan but has some suggestions for improvement, "PlanMaryland is a good initial draft. The Howard County Dept. of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) supports the goals and overall approach, however, the devil is always in the details."

Visit the PlanMaryland website to learn more about the initiative and read all comments posted. Click here to see a full draft of PlanMaryland.

**The commisioners will host a PlanMaryland forum tonight, Aug. 29 at Carroll Community College at 6:30 p.m. 

watchingfive August 29, 2011 at 11:56 AM
The commissioners and their tea bag cohorts are doing a great disservice to the citizens of Carroll County with their obstructionist, fear-mongering stance on Plan Maryland. Thank goodness the state is finally planning for the impact of growth on land use and resources. It's the only smart thing for them to do. Just as different states adapt in different ways to federal plans and mandates, so must counties and municipalities adapt to state plans. The commissioners are playing politics with the Democratic-controlled state government and refusing to see the benefits that constrained, intelligent planning would have in a diverse county within a diverse state. It seems to be beyond the grasp of their narrow minds.
Kathy August 29, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Does anyone even know what socialism is, except a buzz word to throw at the government every time they try to do something? I have heard the accusation of "socialism" being thrown wildly at everything from environmental regulation to Warren Buffet (lol). Socialism is an (admittedly flawed) economic system where industries are publicly owned and-- supposedly-- wealth is evenly distributed--although it never seems to work out that way. Maryland is in no danger of becoming socialist, just because they want to protect the environment and its citizens from the effects of unplanned or badly planned development! Fear about "socialism" is why our citizens are subject to one of the worst health care systems in the civilized world (ranking 37th in the world on quality of healthcare and 36th on life expectancy, according to the WHO). Lets not let it destroy our chances in Maryland to plan for a better future for everyone, not just some "make a quick buck" developers. .
Neil Ridgely August 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM
What is with applying anonimity to commenters in the article, That's bogus. I want to know who is saying what about PlanMaryland - if they are so afraid of having their names mentioned then they should refrain from commenting. And who officially speaks for the City of Westminster? Is if Frazier, Wack or the Mayor? It's important that all of the Carroll municipalities take a position on PlanMaryland because tat is where the infrastructure in Carroll County lies. Do they feel their planning authority is threatened like the Commssioners do or do they see opportunity in PlanMaryland that their infrastructure will be improved and expanded? Dig Patch dig.
Ross Dangel August 29, 2011 at 05:38 PM
PlanMaryland isn't perfect, but if anyone questions whether it is needed, they need look no further than the Master Plan recommendations that our Carroll County Commissioners gave the Planning & Zoning Commission last week. Not only do the recommendations support a political agenda, completely inconsistent with responsible land use and professional planning, but they are in contrast with everything PlanMaryland stands to achieve. If enacted, these recommendations will assuredly cut us off from millions of dollars of potential state funding of our projects. I'll paraphrase what the Governor said about PlanMaryland, "We don't want to usurp local planning authority or take away a county's right to make stupid planning decisions, we just don't intend to subsidize stupid planning decisions." Our Carroll County Commissioners have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they "own" stupid, when it comes to planning decisions. We don't need new plans, we need to start following the plans we already have on the books, like the Freedom plan, which has long been ignored in favor of realty interests. The problems we have today of high taxes and insufficient revenue were not caused by SmartGrowth or the United Nations, as Mr. Rothschild would have us believe, but instead because we failed to listen to our planners who told us over 30 years ago that sprawl was bad. Citzens need to reject the Commissioners Master Plan recommendations, which will definitely put us on the plath to ruin.
Kym Byrnes (Editor) August 29, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Thanks for your comments. Just to clarify, I gave as much information about the commenters as is available on the PlanMaryland website. Apparently individuals are not required to sign their name to their comments when they post on the PlanMaryland site.
JH August 29, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Good to have a plan, but need to keep in mind that higher taxes to support growth is not smart. Too often the existing taxpayers face higher taxes to support growth. If the proposed growth is not self - supporting, don't approve it or build it. Also, providing affordable housing for one person is going to mean higher taxes for others. Don't build a dwelling if it does not generate the taxes needed to be self supporting.
Kathy August 30, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Maybe he has no electric.
Jack White August 30, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Darn, I'm sorry I missed the meeting, but my wife wanted to go instead and we had some hurricane issues. Here's what i don't understand, so please correct me if I'm wrong, I understand that the plan doesn't prohibit the counties from continuing to do whatever they want. Isn't that true? It's just that the county won't get money for certain things based on whether or not they adhere to the plan. I don't see anything socialistic in it at all. In a socialist system the state would just tell us what to do, right? Or am I missing something?
Kathy August 30, 2011 at 03:27 PM
It does seem that many of the same people who loudly proclaim we should have less government and lower spending, simultaneously expect the government to pay for things that benefit them individually. We all want lower taxes but heaven forbid they cut the budget at our children's school!
Ross Dangel August 30, 2011 at 03:29 PM
No, that's right. But you did miss my being escorted to my seat by sheriff's deputies. Apparently, it wasn't enough for them to attempt 3 separate times to limit my free speech, but they stuck me at the end and after the press and most of the audience had left and then didn't even allow me the courtesy to finish what I came to say. The statement that I didn't get to finish was that we have much more to fear from our Commissioners proposed changes to our own Carroll County master plan (last week's press release) than we could ever have from PlanMaryland. In fact, their ignorant politically motivated recommendations concerning climate change denials and Agenda 21 conspiracy theories combined with their pro-sprawl development agenda are indeed the complete antithesis of what PlanMaryland is all about, so we can kiss off state funding. We've ignored our master plan (and Freedom's) for years, which has created the unsustainable sprawl we have now. Our Commissioners want to make this "Ignorance" of good planning guidelines our "New Plan". We've long been building the majority of developments outside of our priority funding areas (well over 50%) and now we can't grow our commercial and industrial tax base because we don't have adequate infrastructure, so the increased tax burden for services and amenities all falls on our residential taxpayers. If we allow the Commissioners to ram through their new sprawl plan, we might as well be saying tax us more and keep giving us less!
Jack White August 30, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Interesting, Ross. The article about the lake on Syksville Online sort of addresses some of that near the end, especially the Agenda 21 stuff.
Ross Dangel August 30, 2011 at 05:58 PM
A nice lady named Bonnie Grady surprisingly read verbatim from the "10 years After Save the Lake" article last night at the hearing. Like her, I agree that you and Bob Allen have captured the parallels of that time with today, as it was all about promoting sprawl and Property Rights then, just as it is today. The difference is that Larry Haines and Ed Primoff were the masters of Property Rights deception and Commissioners Dell & Frazier mere pawns. This stuff would never be able to go on if there were more press coverage and people were actually paying attention. Our current Commissioners are very content to ride the wave of discontent with our state and federal government fueled by the ignorance of the Tea Party to support policies that completely undermine our county and country's future. Our collective fears over our jobs, the economy and our country's future at the hands of a polarized legislature, are making us forget that it is our failure to follow our plans and deregulation of everything that's actually gotten us into this mess. Abandoning SmartGrowth plans, which have long been ignored, to make way for our Commissioner's plans for added sprawl, will only serve to make things much worse long term. After last night, I can understand exactly why the state doesn't want to subsidize stupid planning anymore. Sure, we have the right to elect leaders who offer awful plans, but why make the rest of the state suffer for Carroll's failures to follow the right course?
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Thank you, Ross. Like you, I was also about to get a personal escort back to my seat when addressing the commissioners. Perhaps if the Fighting 59th hadn't been so long-winded, particularly Rothschild and Frazier, they might have been little more interested in what their constituents had to say. Since I was not able to finish my remarks, I offer them here for anyone who might be interested. I will post them in several parts since Patch only allows 1,500 characters per post. Here’s part 1: Mr. Secretary, Commissioners, and fellow residents: PlanMD makes sense! So why is ther so much opposition? And where is it coming from? I’ve spent a number of years in the energy business, and I’ve learned something that I believe can be applied to the situation we are facing here in Carroll County today: Fear and Greed are two powerful motivators. And Politics. It is my assertion that this opposition is all about politics. What we have here is a purely political battle that is motivated by those two things: fear and greed. If PlanMaryland was being introduced by a Republican Governor and his Republican cabinet, the folks who you see here tonight who are opposed to the plan would be all over it. They would be embracing it; they would swooning over it. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Nineteenth-century Spanish philosopher George Santayana said that, and it still applies.
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Part 2: For that reason, I am grateful to South Carroll residents Bob Allen and Jack White for the brilliant article that they recently coauthored, entitled, “The Battle to Save Piney Run Lake - Ten Years Later” The article can be found at SykesvilleOnline.com. Every Carroll County resident should read it. I want to share some of it with you. Because it’s important. Because it’s true. And because if we don’t remember what happened in Carroll County ten years ago, there is a real danger we will be condemned to relive it. Reading from the article: “It’s been a decade since South Carroll went to war with County Commissioners Donald Dell and Robin Frazier and influential pro-development forces over the future of Piney Run Lake. The commissioners were determined to build a water treatment plant at the big lake near Eldersburg to supplement the county water supply, but South Carroll residents, rallying around Commissioner Julia Gouge and the Freedom Area’s Citizens Council (FACC), were equally determined to stop them.” . . . . . . and continuing: “As opponents piled on with calls, at community meetings, in letters to editors and newspaper columns, Dell and Frazier dug in their heels. They appeared impervious to criticism and defiantly resistant to it.”
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Part 3: . . . . . . The Carroll County Times took note [at that time]: “The only constant…has been Frazier’s and Dell’s teaming up to make decisions without any public input. And since, on many occasions, they have not listened to the voice of the people, people should be wondering just whose voices these commissioners are listening to.” . . . . . . and ultimately: “To the surprise of almost no one but the two commissioners, the Maryland Department of the Environment notified the Carroll County Board of Commissioners in a letter that they would not issue a permit for the plant. What Dell had publicly called “a done deal” was, in one fell swoop, effectively undone. But, the Sun reported: “That news has not deterred two Carroll Commissioners supporting the…project, Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier, who accused the state of practicing partisan politics. Frazier called the letter political rhetoric and said it perpetuates Carroll’s squabbles with Gov. Parris N. Glendening over growth issues in Carroll.” Isn't that what this Board of Commissioners is doing today?
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Part 4: Gov. Parris N. Glendening over growth issues in Carroll.” …and now here we are today, again from the article: “…Frazier is back in the new five-commissioner system, representing District 1, and along with District 4 Commissioner Richard Rothschild, she’s unrepentantly spouting the developer line once again, only this time with a strange dose of anti-UN, anti-sustainability hysteria thrown in. And once again, it seems some on Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners may be determined to wage war with the state of Maryland and drag the rest of us along for the ride.” ….looking back, Allen and White state that: “In a press conference at the height of the controversy, Julia Gouge warned her fellow commissioners: “If we cut ourselves off from the counties around us or the state of Maryland, we will be in big trouble. We’re not an island; we’re part of the state and we’re part of the region and we need to work together.” ….[Jonathan]Herman [Mayor of Sykesville at the time] is also mentioned in the article, again quoting Allen and White: “[Herman] believes the current commissioners would do well to heed Gouge’s advice from ten years ago. Referring to actions of the current board, Herman says, “History’s just repeating itself. The whole idea, then and now, is thumb your nose at Annapolis. But that’s foolhardy. It always ends up hurting the county, and there’s never been an example of doing it successfully.”
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:47 AM
Part 5: ….I personally believe the current board of commissioners is intent on doing precisely that, thumbing their noses at Annapolis. That’s pure politics. But as Allen and White remind us: “…it’s in the best interests of the county to cooperate with the state. That doesn’t mean getting pushed around. It doesn’t mean being silently complicit in harming local interests. It doesn’t mean taking away property rights or ceding authority to the United Nations. It means working sensibly within the system.” …The article also states that: [District 5 Commissioner] “Doug Howard says that’s what they intend to do. District 2 Commissioner, Haven Shoemaker, while voting against a measure to remove sprinkler requirements in new homes, said, “I wasn't elected to represent the residential development community; I was elected to represent the people of Carroll County.” After viewing the Frazier/Rothschild Master Plan PowerPoint, District 3 Commissioner Dave Roush asked them to excise the Agenda 21 references, pointing out that they had nothing to do with the plan. …I want to personally thank these three Commissioners for showing at least a measure of sensibility. Why? Because I agree with local resident Tom Harbold, who wrote the following in a recent Carroll County Times column: (see next post)
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Part 6: [Tom Harbold, in Carroll County Times] “I am, frankly, growing a little bit weary of having my intelligence insulted by people who hear the sound of black helicopters flying overhead at the merest hint of sustainability, environmental concern or anything that might in the slightest way hinder their ability to use their property however they wish – which, in practice, often means selling it to the highest bidder to build subdivisions or strip malls on it. Harbold continues: “Let me assure one and all, the UN is not coming for us. Even if it wanted to, it has no standing army, and even if it did, it would be no remote match for the United States Armed Forces…. Let's be at least slightly realistic here, please, if we’re to have a discussion at all. Such fear-mongering would be silly if it were not so despicable. “Whether for reasons of veiled self-interest or, even more frighteningly, as a result of true belief, there seem to be those in this county who are so fearful of socialism that they are ignorant or dismissive of social responsibility.” There’s the fear that I spoke of earlier. I believe fear is what motivates Commissioner Rothschild in this and so many other things that he says and does. And that he why he is so consumed with fear-mongering.
Bonnie Grady August 31, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Part 7: And as for Commissioner Frazier, I am left with only one thought, based on what happened 10 years ago and what I see happening today, now that she is back in office. It’s greed. She worked with the developers then, and she’s working with them now. One only has to read what she was quoted as having said in yesterday’s Carroll County Times article. It said: “Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, R-District 1, said all plans need to be flexible and be driven by the financial market. Where and how people live should be dictated by individuals and the market, not by the government. Any plan, Frazier said, has to serve as a guide that changes as the market changes.” Those are her words, not mine. Fear, greed, politics….plain and simple. Mr. Secretary, please tell Governor O’Malley that many of us here in Carroll County support PlanMaryland. And we encourage him to make it effective without further delay. Thank you.
Kym Byrnes (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Thanks for all the insightful comments on this topic, this is obviously an important discussion for Carroll County residents. I know many of our commenters are passionate about their opinions but please be reminded that Patch will remove any comments that cross the line from intelligent discourse to personal attacks. Thank you for your understanding. Also be aware that if you want to submit something that doesn't work within the framework of the comment boxes, Patch does post Letters to the Editor and you can submit those to kym.byrnes@patch.com. The same "play nice" rules apply :)
withavengeance September 01, 2011 at 03:26 PM
And you say WE name-call!!!!!!!! Grow up!
Richard Rothschild September 02, 2011 at 12:31 AM
There's a saying, the more shrill and angry your opponents are, the weaker their position. PlanMaryland is being resisted by most, if not all counties within the State. Plan Maryland would shift land-use and zoning authority away from locally elected and accountable officials (both Republican and Democrat) and instead places more power over YOUR LAND into the hands of a handful of unelected state bureaucrats that can never be "fired" by voters. This flies in the face of 200 years of local land-use precedence, and respect for Constitutional Property Rights. PlanMaryland proposes a "State Transportation Plan; State Housing Plan; and State Development Plan". It breaches new firewalls (page 4-59) by discussing State involvement in the "Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Food, Water, and Energy." It suggests the State will "determine the highest and best use" for all land within the State. Is that what you want? This Plan is unacceptable and represents the epitome of government overreach. Citizens that value their freedoms and right to peacefully own and enjoy their property should remain ever vigilant. Commissioner Richard Rothschild Unwavering Conservative Leadership
withavengeance September 02, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Yay, Richard! A sane voice amongst the uninformed and misinformed. Good job! Have you noticed that the anti-PlanMD numbers about 3-1 against the pro-PlanMD crowd? Sadly, looks like you've made yourself a target. Don't feel too bad...I'm now a target too, but I hope I can take some of the heat off of the original target ;)
Bonnie Grady September 02, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Mr. Rothschilld, I find your opening sentence (above) interesting. I would assert that the saying can be applied to the way you communicate with those who disagree with you. I really can't recall ever hearing a local politician speak to constituents the way you do in open meetings. For example, when I questioned the need for the BOC's "environmental principles" and you brought up a very strange and unrelated argument about a couple of President Obama's appointees. Or when you lost your temper with a constituent at last Monday night's meeting on PlanMD. It's disturbing to see an elected official respond to citizens in this way. It undermines your argument and erodes public confidence.
WatchingInMtAiry September 02, 2011 at 03:52 AM
Ms Vengeance - it looks as like Comm Rothschild was referring to you since your comments are the only one shrill and angry, so much so that some of your posts have been removed. You should learn from this and be a bit more pleasant. Comm Rothschild is this really you or is Jim Simpson, the extremist right wing blogger, ghost writing for you? I'm not sure there is a saying. I think you made that up and called it a saying.
Richard Rothschild September 02, 2011 at 04:22 AM
I take responsibility for my posts. No one is authorized to post under my name. Thanks for asking. Commissioner Richard Rothschild
withavengeance September 02, 2011 at 04:26 AM
The only post removed was one in which I simply told the truth....oh well. The ones I had removed? They outted me by my real name. I do not desire to be a target, but looks like I've become one. Oh, well. I'm up for it. :D

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