On April 25, MACo Associate Director Les Knapp joined Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall and University of Maryland Public Policy Professor and former state legislator Gerald Winegrad on the Marc Steiner radio show to discuss sprawl and land use planning in Maryland. The discussion centered on a March 30 Urbanite Magazine article entitled “The Era of Suburban Sprawl Has to End. So Now What?”. The article examines growth and sprawl trends in Maryland and debates whether PlanMaryland, the State’s land use and policy plan, will help control sprawl.
Both Secretary Hall and Senator Winegrad are quoted in the article. Secretary Hall focused on Maryland’s long-term outlook and the slow but persistent land use changes caused by growth. He made the following analogy:
“It’s like the boiled frog theory,” Hall says. “Put a frog in boiling water and he’ll jump out, but put him in warm water and keep increasing the heat, and he won’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. That’s what happens with growth. It seems like it happens overnight, but it doesn’t.”
Senator Winegrad argued that county and municipal governments are the cause of sprawl:
“Local governments make all the land use decisions, and they haven’t cared about sprawl so long as it maximizes their tax coffers,” Winegrad says.
Winegrad is sharply critical of a central tenet of [PlanMaryland], which allows local governments, rather than the state, to determine what land can be developed and what should be preserved. Such local discretion, he fears, will only perpetuate the madcap, fragmenting sprawl that has gone on for seventy-five years.
Senator Winegrad continued his attack on counties and municipalities during the radio show, charging that the current system of local land use decision-making was “corrupt” and that the State needs to take over making land use. He dismissed PlanMaryland as a “nothing burger.” Mr. Knapp argued that local officials best understand the needs of their citizens and are the most accountable. He also noted the openness of the local comprehensive plan process and the fact that Maryland is number one in the nation for agricultural preservation based on State and local government efforts. Secretary Hall argued that the State should have a role in land use planning but defended current State and local planning efforts as being one of the best in the nation.
Click here to listen to the hour-long debate.