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Pros, cons of PlanMaryland for greenspace preservation debated at forum

February 14, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A program Maryland officials said was created to preserve the state’s existing green space was debated Tuesday during a breakfast hosted by Kaplan University and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Charles “Chuck” Boyd, deputy director of planning services for the Maryland Department of Development, argued that PlanMaryland was designed, in part, to mitigate the loss of green space to development.

State estimates say development will claim 176,000 acres of forest and 226,000 acres of farmland by 2035.

“We grew faster in the last 30 years than we did in the 300 (years) before that,” Boyd told about 60 people gathered at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

Offering an opposing view was Steve Seawright, president of the Frederick County Builders Association and managing member of the development firm Seawright Homes LLC.

He said PlanMaryland is an unnecessary program that would make private and public construction more expensive because of costs associated with additional government regulation.

Those extra costs, he said, might influence Marylanders to move to other states where it’s cheaper to build.

“Housing demand along with construction jobs typically associated with demand, which should exist and should be satisfied in Maryland, probably will migrate to bordering states,” he said. “The population, the tax potential, the revenue potential are going to be outside, but we’re still going to have the traffic — people passing through.”

“The part I have a problem with,” Seawright said, “... is the part that ... says, ‘You know what guys, if you don’t conform yourself to our views of the world, then don’t expect a dime in state resources to fund your plans.’”

Boyd said PlanMaryland would allow local governments to make their own land use decisions. “That’s what we’re supposed to be doing here is creating more effective government,” he said.

Boyd said local governments that don’t want to participate in the program won’t have to do so. 

State officials say they need a coordinated plan to accommodate a projected 1 million more residents, 500,000 new households and 600,000 new jobs by 2035.

PlanMaryland is expected to help save at least 300,000 acres of farmland and forest over the next 25 years and save an estimated $1.5 billion a year in infrastructure costs during the next 20 years, the PlanMaryland executive summary says.

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