Baltimore Sun: Counties “Cry Wolf” Over PlanMaryland

In the ongoing coverage of the MACo conference and the debate over the finer points of PlanMaryland, the Baltimore Sun has taken the offensive, decrying county concerns as a “loud moaning sound.” The full editorial lays out the Sun’s case for state intervention. From the editorial piece:

When counties choose to allow far-flung development rather than restrict it to existing higher-density areas, the cost of state-subsidized schools, roads and other infrastructure increases markedly. Meanwhile, aging cities and towns that should be redeveloped to accommodate growth are neglected and they, too, become burdens for the taxpayer.

For all the carping from local leaders meeting in Ocean City, PlanMaryland merely attempts to provide incentives for counties to make smarter choices in the future. Want to allow development outside designated growth areas? Fine, but don’t expect the state taxpayer to pick up the bill for the requisite water and sewer extensions, roads and schools.

That’s not a state takeover of the local planning prerogatives but a matter of drawing a clear and reasonable line and protecting the interests of all Marylanders. County officials have had plenty of time to ponder the ramifications of a program that’s been in the works for more than a year. Now, it’s time for them to find ways to make PlanMaryland work — and in the process save taxpayers billions of dollars at a time when they could use the money.

In their zeal to discredit justified county concerns over community input and accountability, however, the Sun editorial staff actually blurs the lines of the very debate they engage. The most straightforward and well-received comments during the discussions at the MACo conference were when state officials declared that the state was not seeking to take over local zoning decisions, and that PlanMaryland was simply intending to be a state “policy plan” to foster better coordination across state agencies and programs. Then, why is PlanMaryland so essential as “Growth Restrictions” as the Sun itself indicates, and a very paternal-sounding “drawing a clear and reasonable line.” The Sun needs to make up its mind: Either county concerns about a state power-grab are unwarranted since the plan doesn’t make such intrusions… or these county concerns are warranted, but should nevertheless be ignored on grounds of the Sun‘s view of the greater good.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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