On November 9 MACo sent a letter to Governor Martin O’Malley summarizing the organization’s remaining concerns with PlanMaryland (the Plan) and offering suggestions to address those concerns. As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo released a comprehensive set of comments on the initial draft of PlanMaryland and a second set of comments on the revised draft. The letter distills the outstanding concerns raised by those comments into three main ares:
(1) The Plan should contain clear protections for local land use autonomy.
In order to protect local land use authority and ensure that the Plan remain focused on State funding decisions as some proponents have claimed, MACo has requested language be added to the Plan stating that the Plan does not establish any new cause for State denial of projects, permits, or funding beyond what already exists in State law and regulation. This language is similar to clauses found in some legislation. Second, MACo believes that the State should not have approval authority over designated places, which would mirror the existing structure used for the Priority Funding Areas. Finally, while the Plan states that special area designations should be jointly made by the State and a local government whenever possible, MACo believes there should be an appeal mechanism to a neutral third-party where the local government and the State disagree over a special area designation.
(2) Implementation of the Plan should be delayed until the “blanks” are filled in.
The Plan is still missing many critical details, such as the designation criteria, benefits and ramifications of the designations, local government responsibilities, Plan benchmarks, State implementation strategies, and indicators or performance measures. Implementation of the Plan should be delayed until these details have been developed through a collaborative review process.
(3) The Plan should be a collaborative effort.
If PlanMaryland is truly intended to be the collaborative effort it is portrayed to be, then local governments and other stakeholders should be “at the table” in the drafting of the Plan and the remaining blanks. True collaborating is more than simply commenting on a finished draft.
The letter also stresses MACo’s ongoing willingness to work with the Governor, the Department of Planning, and other stakeholders to address these three concerns.