Schaefer tells growth panel to 'be bold' Governor urges imposing strict development controls

January 03, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer last night urged members of the state growth commission to put fear aside and approve a controversial plan to impose strict controls on development throughout Maryland.

"Don't be afraid. Be bold," Schaefer told his Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region at a meeting in Annapolis.

In addition to the governor's pep talk, the commission received assurances that the state would chip in some money to implement the program in a letter from Charles L. Benton Jr., Schaefer's chief budget expert.

At a contentious Dec. 18 meeting, the commission recommended that the growth controls be shelved unless the state agreed to help local governments pay for them.

A proposed bill before the commission seeks to preserve the state's dwindling farms and forests by focusing development around cities and towns or in designated "growth areas."

The bill, which would require legislative approval, would force the state's municipalities and 23 counties to place their land in one of four categories, each of which contain specific growth restrictions.

If the commission sends a bill to the 1991 General Assembly, the governor will include $3.8 million to help counties draw up growth plans during the budget year that begins July 1.

Also, a staffer said, the 1994 budget may well include a much larger amount of money to help local governments pay for roads, schools and other services needed to serve the areas of clustered growth.

Opponents, such as some local government officials and Eastern Shore residents, argue that the bill usurps localities' authority to plan development and virtually ignores the different growth patterns in the state's rural and urban areas.

Worried that the commission may delay action for months or more, Schaefer last night urged members to approve some form of a bill so the state legislature could vote on it during the 1991 session that begins Wednesday. "This is the year of decisions," he said.

The commission plans to adopt its recommendations on Monday.

Schaefer also denied he had tried to influence any commission member to change an earlier proposal that would have hindered his ability to develop a lot he owns near Ocean City.

The proposal, which the commission has since changed, would have virtually banned all new development in the Ocean City area.

Commission members said the proposal had been a mistake, which they corrected after local government officials pointed it out. They subsequently voted to limit development of environmentally sensitive land in the Ocean City area but not forbid it entirely.

The governor said a reporter was investigating whether a link existed between his ownership of the lot and the commission's action.

Schaefer publicly asked the commission if he had urged them to change the proposal. No one answered, a sign that none of them had been lobbied by Schaefer, commission chairman Michael D. Barnes said. Several commission members later confirmed that they did not know of any lobbying on the governor's behalf.

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