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Smart growth law debated

December 01, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Two Smart Growth Act experts didn't mention the local university center controversy during a debate on the state law at a Hagerstown conference Wednesday.

Questioned after the one-hour debate, the speakers said they had heard about Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Nov. 30 decision to build the University System of Maryland Hagerstown center in the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown. But neither brought it up or took a position on his choice.

Glendening has said one of the main reasons he chose the downtown site is that it was more consistent with his Smart Growth Act initiative than sites at the Hagerstown Community College and Allegheny Energy's Friendship Technology Park site off Interstate 70.

The initiative's goals include discouraging sprawl and revitalizing downtowns.

Frieda Campbell, a Bethesda-based economist and columnist, and Royce Hanson, a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's policy sciences graduate program, spoke at the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference. The conference is at the Ramada Inn in Hagerstown through Friday.

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Campbell said reusing existing buildings, which is part of the current campus plan, often ends up costing two to three times as much as creating a new building.

She said she received a call from a local resident who does not want family members to attend the $11.7 million campus because of the amount of downtown crime.

But Hanson predicted crime will drop downtown as the number of people there at night increases.

Hanson spoke first during the seminar, arguing that Smart Growth is both a policy and a goal which local governments can use to ensure they are not leaving problems behind for future generations.

While Smart Growth is often associated with Glendening, the policy should be institutionalized and permanent, he said. It is not a question of whether the state government should get involved in local planning and land use decisions but rather how that will happen, he said.

Campbell likened her remarks to being "like the skunk at a picnic."

She said Smart Growth is bad policy based on a "flawed study" that was done in 1974. She questioned whether sprawl is truly a serious problem in Maryland.

Both agreed that Smart Growth is intended to reduce traffic congestion, crime and environmental problems but differed on whether it succeeds in that goal.

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