Strong Reactions Emerging to PlanMaryland (Part 2 of 2)

Similar to a previously reported instance in Cecil County, Allegany County’s Planning Director and Maryland Secretary of Planning Rich Hall recently offered two different viewpoints on the impact of PlanMarylandNote:  The exchanges in this article took place before the recent announcement of changes being made to the PlanMaryland draft.  See the July 26 Conduit Street post for more information on the changes.

A July 15 Cumberland Times-News article highlights a presentation made to the Allegany County Commissioners by the County’s Planning Director in which the Planning Director criticized the Plan.

The PlanMaryland Initiative could take planning right out of the hands of local citizens and officials in Allegany County and into the hands of state preservationist bureaucrats.

That’s the view of Allegany County Planning Director Phil Hager. And he’s echoing a sentiment in large part backed by the Maryland Association of Counties.

PlanMaryland could kill off future economic development in the county too, he said, as he spoke to county commissioners at Tuesday’s public work session.

Secretary Hall responded to the criticisms in a July 24 letter to the Cumberland Times-News, arguing that PlanMaryland would help economic development in the Western Maryland region.  He also denied the Plan was in response to poor local planning and stated that the Plan was not intended to usurp local zoning authority.

And if the conclusion of the Allegany County Planning Director is that better long-term planning and coordination among government agencies is anti-economic development, it doesn’t say much for his view of planning.

As a matter of fact, my agency has been involved for a long time in economic growth efforts in Cumberland and more broadly, Western Maryland.  …

The State Growth Plan is patently not a response to local planning “not being ‘well-done,’ ” as the county planning director said.

Western Maryland has numerous examples of well done, smart growth-planning. The Western Maryland Rural Legacy Program that protects large strategic tracts of land; the dramatic reuse of Frostburg’s Lyric Theater and the Over-The-Store Housing Study and Trails and Bikeway Master Plan in Cumberland are just a few.

MACo is currently reviewing the proposed changes to the Plan to see if the changes meet some or all of the concerns raised by the counties.

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