After more than a year of work, the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region voted to give Gov. William Donald Schaefer a legislative proposal aimed at protecting the bay and the state's open spaces from uncontrolled development.
The proposed bill would funnel growth into high-density development areas in each county and radically cut the amount of development allowed in rural and ecologically sensitive areas.
"This is just the beginning," said Agriculture Secretary Wayne A. Cawley Jr. The bill, the Maryland Growth and Chesapeake Bay Protection Act of 1991, is "wide open to change in the General Assembly," he said.
Commission member and state Sen. C. Bernard Fowler predicted the bill will face rough sledding in the General Assembly, which convenes tomorrow.
Senator Fowler, who has been outspoken in protecting the Chesapeake Bay, said that even he would have to abstain from voting on the bill.
"I'll be working very hard as a member of the General Assembly to amend it," he said. But because of opposition from his Eastern Shore constituents, Mr. Fowler, a Democrat, abstained from the commission's vote.
In the report to Governor Schaefer, which completes its work, the panel gave the governor the option of phasing in some of the bill's provisions over two years, beginning this July if the bill is approved by the General Assembly. During that period, key provisions, such as how the bill would be implemented, would be subject to public discussion and modification.
Commission Chairman Michael Barnes said the bill "will have a positive effect on the future of the state" and predicted it "had a good chance" of being approved by the General Assembly.
Environmentalists also were pleased.
"There are no regrets in my book for supporting this bill," said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the panel. But he cautioned, "So much of the success of this bill will lie in how it is implemented."