Gov. Martin O'Malley signed an executive order Monday outlining how to implement the state's first long-range strategy to control growth as the population continues to swell, but opponents say the plan that includes sweeping land use implications should have gone through the General Assembly.In other words, O'Malley and the "Smart"Growth folks plan to send people to where they don't want to go, the big metropolitan areas. As a former Baltimore mayor, and a politician whose power base lies in the city, O'Malley strongly favors pushing economic development there.
O'Malley was joined by former governors Harry Hughes and Parris Glendening for the presentation of PlanMaryland. The basic framework of the plan is in effect. However, the administration will be working with local governments for the next six months to develop a specific list of criteria for planning areas, and no major changes are expected to happen before a year's time, said Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Richard Hall.
"This plan will target investments that we make, and we estimate that we can actually save money by targeting those investments in the smarter growth areas," said the Democratic governor. "It is not a way for the state to take away local planning and zoning prerogatives. Our purpose is to work with local planning and local zoning and we all need to participate in this in order to make it work."
He pointed to the construction of a new public health lab adjacent to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore -- instead of in the middle of a cornfield in Howard County as previously planned -- as an example of the kind of changes PlanMaryland will bring. The idea is to steer development into places that already have infrastructure, instead of building too much on declining acres of woodlands and wetlands.
Of course, this is being resisted, to the extent possible, by more rural areas, who would like to see development come to those areas, bringing jobs and money:
Worcester County leaders say they have some concerns about Gov. Martin O'Malley's executive order implementing PlanMaryland, a strategy to control long-term population growth in the state.As I have said before, the fundamental political split in America is along urban vs. rural, and most other political fights, including the red vs blue vote, derives from these competing visions of life.
"It's not something that we readily agreed with," County Administrator Gerald Mason said.
As the state's official development plan, PlanMaryland will serve to "spur economic development" and "protect rural, agricultural, natural, environmental and cultural lands and resources," according to the executive order, which O'Malley signed Monday.
The issue comes down to zoning, said County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, adding he fears county officials will lose control of their own zoning and will have to deal with additional hurdles for land use approval.
"Instead of us, the seven commissioners, having the ultimate say, somebody in Annapolis will," he said. "It's so vague that it can be interpreted by just about anybody to do just about anything. And there's the problem -- it's the vagueness of it, because nothing's spelled out as to who actually has the say and the control."