The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission held its most recent meeting on July 25 in Calvert County. At the meeting, the Commission reviewed and adopted extensive recommendations made by a workgroup tasked with reviewing the first draft of PlanMaryland. The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) also released a PlanMaryland Progress Report, which indicates that portions of the Plan will be substantially rewritten based on concerns raised by MACo and other stakeholders.
PlanMaryland Workgroup Report
The PlanMaryland Workgroup is a subgroup of the Commission and is charged with reviewing and commenting on the draft of PlanMaryland. Gerrit Knaap of National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education is the Chair. The Workgroup presented the Commission with a report on its recommendations for the PlanMaryland draft. The Workgroup’s report addressed some of MACo’s concerns about the Plan. Some of the major recommendations of the report:
(1) Clarification is needed as to whether the Plan is simply a guidance document for State agencies or something broader. State and local government roles should be clearly identified.
(2) A clear timeline is needed for the Plan’s continued development and implementation.
(3) More information on transportation, housing, State and local Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), climate change, and local zoning should be included in the Plan.
(4) Indicators are needed to measure the progress in meeting the goals and objectives of the Plan.
(5) The initial State place designations should be removed.
(6) The State should work collaboratively with local governments and other stakeholders to define the place designation criteria and place designation process.
(7) The State should work collaboratively with local governments and other stakeholders to define State implementation strategies.
(8) No funding or State policy changes should occur until the collaborative process regarding the place designations and State implementation strategies is complete.
(9) Local governments need to play some role in the Plan’s oversight structure.
Dr. Knaap indicated that his personal preference would be to create the place designation categories and process first, then create the State implementation strategies, and finally actually designate places. Several other Commission Workgroups also offered their own recommendations on PlanMaryland. Most of their comments were similar to those of the PlanMaryland Workgroup.
MDP Progress Report
In response to the Workgroup’s report, MDP released its own progress report, which states that MDP is planning a significant rewrite of many of PlanMaryland’s sections and already incorporates some of the Workgroup’s suggestions. MDP Director of Planning Services Rich Josephson stated that the report “is a public document that reflects what we have been hearing over the last several months.” Maryland Secretary of Planning Rich Hall noted, “the most important thing [about PlanMaryland] is to have a 30,000 policy view.” Both stressed the Plan was not designed to take away local land use authority. The very first section of the report (What the Plan Is and What It Isn’t) states:
PlanMaryland is not a substitute for local comprehensive plans nor will it take away any local planning and zoning authority. These facts will be stated clearly at the beginning of the Plan document.
The report confirms there will be no initial state-designated places in PlanMaryland and clarifies that the GrowthPrint, AgPrint, and GreenPrint maps are useful mapping and analysis tools for identifying existing growth and preservation efforts but will not serve as automatic place designations. The report also promises an annual review of PlanMaryland, including an assessment of local jurisdictions’ involvement and collaboration. The Plan will also recognize the local and regional differences throughout the State.
When asked about the schedule for the Plan, Secretary Hall indicated that the public comment will end September 1. MDP will then incorporate the comments by the Commission and the public into a revised Plan and present the revised Plan to the Governor for approval in October. He stressed that the October plan will be a “general plan” that will only provide a framework and that some issues will still need to be addressed. Citing the statute that gave rise to the Plan, the Secretary stated, “[The Plan] is done when the Governor says its done….The Plan was clearly intended be an executive branch plan.”
Several Commission members expressed concern about the short time process and the lack of ability for the Commission to comment on the revised draft of the Plan. Dr. Knaap expressed concern about the long-term continuity of the plan if it remains solely an executive branch document.
The Commission ultimately adopted the PlanMaryland Workgroup recommendations, along with the analgous recommendations from the other workgroups. The Commission will continue to discuss PlanMaryland issues at its September 26 meeting, including the appropriate role of the Commission in the PlanMaryland process.
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