Debate Continues Over PlanMaryland

Debate over PlanMaryland has continued after Governor Martin O’Malley’s acceptance of the Plan on December 19 and there will likely be legislation introduced during the 2012 Session to limit the Plan or add General Assembly oversight.  The Plan adopted by the Governor through Executive Order is essentially a framework and many details have to be filled in before the Plan can be implemented.  Here is a sampling from a variety of media sources:

December 19 article:

If jurisdictions choose to follow local planning policies that aren’t in line with PlanMaryland’s goals, the state would be reluctant to fund growth-related capital projects there, O’Malley (D) said at a news conference during which he and other state officials unveiled the plan — which for months has drawn the ire of some who say it wrests local control from municipalities.

“Increasingly, you will see capital funding decisions being very much in line with PlanMaryland,” O’Malley said.  …

State planning officials say PlanMaryland will save the state $1.5 billion annually during the next 20 years in the cost of building roads, schools and other infrastructure by reducing uncoordinated development. It also will save more than 300,000 acres of farmland and forested land during the next quarter-century, officials said.

December 19 Baltimore Sun article:

Former governors Harry R. Hughes and Parris N. Glendening, both Democrats, joined O’Malley at a State House news conference to praise the plan as a continuation of their efforts in office to protect the Chesapeake Bay.  …

O’Malley said the plan will not dictate local land-use policies but will guide state spending, steering money away from projects that promote sprawling development.

“The state’s not going to be a part of those stupid decisions, and we’re not going to be subsidizing stupid decisions — pardon me — unsustainable decisions,” O’Malley said.  …

Glendening, architect of the 1997 law that made smart growth state policy, called the adoption of the plan “a major movement ahead.” He said the policy would strengthen the state’s effort.

“We need those teeth,” Glendening said.

O’Malley said the “teeth” behind the policy would be “budget consequences” for localities that make decisions that run counter to the guidelines.

December 20 article:

[Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard] Hall has said that PlanMaryland seeks to build on existing processes and keep planning power in the hands of people in local communities.

The biggest change in the last draft of the document, he said, rewrites that portion of the plan to better show that his department needs to work in collaboration with local communities for everyone to decide how planning maps will be drawn and which areas will be targeted for development.

“We are very clear that Maryland is not taking land use authority,” Hall said.  …

Because the final draft was not released before O’Malley accepted it, very few people who had been opposed to it had read it by Monday afternoon.

Les Knapp of the Maryland Association of Counties had read through the plan. His verdict was that while the Department of Planning had incorporated many of the changes MACo had suggested, there were still big issues that concern him.

“This is a plan with many critical blanks,” Knapp said.

For starters, he said, despite what Hall may say about the plan being an opportunity for local planning boards and the state to collaborate on planning, it still appears that the Smart Growth Subcabinet will have final say on how the maps are drawn. Also, he said, the revised plan does not indicate how disagreements over planning between local planners and the state will be resolved.

There are also few details in how planning area and state implementation guidelines will be set. And MACo’s other major concern is that projects will be denied – regardless of funding availability or local approval – if they do not fit with what is outlined in PlanMaryland.  …

Maryland Farm Bureau Assistant Director of Government Relations Kurt Fuchs said that the executive order was also a problem with his members. They approved a policy statement this month saying PlanMaryland should be submitted to the legislature for its approval.

Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, an outspoken critic of the plan, had not seen the newest version on Monday. He also agreed that it should have gone through the General Assembly for approval.

December 19 Washington Post article:

Senate Republican leader E.J. Pipkin (Queen Anne’s), who has called the governor’s plan tantamount to a war on rural Maryland, characterized Monday’s order as an “unprecedented taking” of rural Marylanders’ property rights and a transparent attempt for the termed-out governor to burnish his environmental credentials for a political life after Annapolis.

“What the governor did is the height of arrogance,” Pipkin said. “We have never seen this in the state of Maryland. We have never had an executive order of this significance without a review by the General Assembly. . . . It’s all part of his national agenda to boost his personal [profile].”  …

As approved Monday by O’Malley, the plan lacks criteria for evaluating whether some areas should be marked for development or open space, said Leslie Knapp, associate director of the Maryland Association of Counties.

The plan also has the potential to consolidate an extraordinary amount of power in a “subcabinet” of state officials to evaluate statewide land use policy, he said.

“We have ongoing, strong concerns,” Knapp said, adding that the counties association, historically one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in Annapolis, would “consider” supporting legislation that may address the group’s concern about the plan when the General Assembly reconvenes next year.

 December 19 Washington Times article
While many supporters say the public had ample time to comment on the plan, critics have said they were kept largely out of the process.

Frederick County Commissioner Blaine R. Young said he has opposed the plan on grounds that it could kill development-related jobs in rural counties.

He said he could support PlanMaryland if specific changes are made, but that state officials have shown little interest in local input.

“We’re not just trying to be obstructionists,” said Mr. Young, a Republican. “Rural Maryland just wants to be at the table. We want our concerns to be addressed.”

However, Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson, a Democrat, thinks the plan is not a jobs killer and will in fact yield its greatest benefit to rural counties by protecting waterways and undeveloped areas.

He said rural officials should be pleased with the plan and that many critics misunderstand the plan or are trying to “have it both ways” by generally favoring rural preservation while leaving the door open for possible development.

December 19 Fox 45 video

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