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