Smart Growth@20: What Are the Next Steps for Land Use in Maryland?

Governors old and new attended a recent seminar that reviewed the successes and failures of the first 20 years of Maryland’s Smart Growth policies and considered the future of Smart Growth in the state. The National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, in conjunction with the Town Creek Foundation, 1000 Friends of Maryland, and the Maryland Building Industry Association, held a “Smart Growth@20” event in Annapolis on April 18, 2018, that drew around 125 attendees from across the state.

From Left to Right: Secretary of Planning Robert McCord, former Governor Parris Glendening, Governor Larry Hogan, Gerrit Knaap, and Special Secretary for Smart Growth Wendi Peters (Source: National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education)

At the event, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan reiterated his support for Smart Growth, noting that the Maryland Department of Planning was conducting listening sessions in every county for the State’s new development plan “A Better Maryland.” Hogan also presented a citation to former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening for his pioneering work in Smart Growth. Glendening noted that the Smart Growth concepts started in Maryland are now found in states and cities across the country. Looking forward, Glendening stressed that Smart Growth needed to focus on: (1) maximizing the use of mass transit, transit oriented development and walkable communities; (2) addressing climate change; and (3) the growing social inequity in America.

The seminar also included an unveiling of potential new planning visions that would replace the existing 12 planning visions adopted by the State in 2009. The draft language included 4 completely new planning values and 12 modified or new visions. The planning visions and values would form the foundation upon which local governments draft their comprehensive plans.

The planning values would be: (1) quality of life and sustainability; (2) public participation; (3) stewardship; and (4) implementation. The planning visions included: (1) concentrate population growth; (2) maintain and design diverse communities; (3) provide efficient infrastructure; (4) balance competing transportation needs; (5) provide access to opportunity through housing; (6) build a 21st century economy; (7) protect Maryland’s environment and ecosystem services; (8) preference clean and renewable energy; (9) mitigate the impacts of climate change; (10) wisely adopt new smart infrastructure technologies; (11) promote public health; and (12) human and capital development.

Caroline County Planning Director Katheleen Freeman was also a speaker at the event and raised concerns that some of the draft visions: (1) would not relate well in some suburban or rural areas; (2) were too specific to be considered as a vision; and (3) addressed issues that counties had little or no control over through land use.  Other speakers raised concerns that local government comprehensive plans should have additional mandatory elements, such as for housing or climate change. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp attended the event and stressed during group discussions that as new Smart Growth policies are considered, it is critical to ensure that the policies acknowledge the differences in rural, suburban, and urban growth patterns and account for these differences rather than apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

It is likely that the discussions started at thee Smart Growth@20 event will continue throughout the 2018 interim and the 2019 Session.

Useful Links

Smart Growth @ 20 Visions and Materials

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education Website