Advertisement

Get 'smart' plan ready

April 09, 1997

What does Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's "smart growth" plan mean for Washington County?

It's probably too early to tell now, but if local officials can quickly line up some quality projects, they might be able to define the bill's role in development across the state.

The "smart growth" bill was Glendening's attempt to deal with what he's come to believe is unaffordable sprawl development. His predecessor, Gov. William D. Schaefer, tried to do much the same thing with the 2020 growth plan, but lawmakers rejected its attempt to give the state planners veto power over all local land-use decisions.

We said then that the state should opt for a carrot rather than a stick and give the counties guidelines rather than unbendable rules. Reward counties that meet guidelines with increased state aid, we said, and reserve harsher enforcement only for those areas which completely disregard the state's suggestions.

Advertisement

Those ideas are the heart of the "smart growth" plan. Sprawl development on rural land won't be prohibited, but if it's outside designated growth areas, state aid won't be available for roads and sewer-line extensions.

Local officials must do two things quickly. The first is to provide input on an regulations that may be written to implement this program. We haven't forgotten the Maryland Reforestation Act, which took a good idea - planting trees to replace those lost during development - and turned it into a bureaucratic nightmare. "Smart growth" won't survive the next session of the legislature if state planning officials turn it into a maze of red tape.

The second "must" is to put together some good projects that can qualify for state aid. For example, we'd like to see some state loan guarantees put in place to spark renovation of the old Routzahn's Building in downtown Hagerstown into upscale apartments.

In addition to improving downtown, such a project could provide positive statewide publicity for the "smart growth" law. Let's grab this opportunity before some other area realizes the benefits of being first in line.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|