ANNAPOLIS -- Despite defeat of his growth management legislation, Gov. William Donald Schaefer has directed his staff to figure out ways to minimize the development sprawl caused when the state decides to build schools, roads or other facilities.
Schaefer administration officials said yesterday that they were not attempting to circumvent the General Assembly or to do anything that requires legislative approval. Rather, they said, they want to show that the state has its house in order before directing counties or the private sector how to channel future development.
"The administration's exploring what options it has, and trying to determine if there is anything appropriate for the administration to do that is not a matter of legislative requirement," said Edwin L. Thomas, an assistant to Ronald M. Kreitner, director of Maryland's Office of Planning. "There have been no direct discussions with the governor or directions from him about what should be done, if anything."
He stressed that the initial meeting to discuss what to do and how to do it probably will not be held until later this month and said reports in yesterday's Washington Post that a plan is in the works are premature.
Despite that, legislators sympathetic to the recommendations of the governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region warned that if Mr. Schaefer acts too hastily, he could short-circuit legislative attempts to get local governments to join in a statewide growth control program.
"One of the reasons for summer study was to try to build some consensus behind a proposal that ultimately would be enacted. It would be a shame to undermine that before it happens," said Delegate Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery. "I hope that is not what's going on here. I'm sure he doesn't intend to do that. I hope that isn't an unintended byproduct."
Mr. Schaefer first broached the possibility of the state implementing
development controls when he was asked about the failure of his growth management legislation Tuesday, the day after the legislature ended.
"Now we will take some measures soon," he said. "We will do something in this area relatively soon that will not require anything other than action by the governor."
The "2020 commission," chaired by former U.S. Representative Michael D. Barnes, recommended that the governor issue executive orders to implement goals of the growth management report as they pertain to state facilities.
It advised that the state "review criteria for funding growth-related infrastructure such as public school construction, water and sewer, parks and open space and transportation, and where possible, re-orient existing programs to serve the locally defined growth management programs."
Whether funds for such projects could or would be withheld until local jurisdictions agree to build them where the state thinks is best has not yet been discussed, administration officials said.
"One option is to use the approval process for schools, roads, the kinds of things the state has control over. 'It makes more sense to build it here than there,' " said Page Boinest, an assistant press secretary to the governor.
Thomas W. Burke, director of the governor's Bay Communications Office, said: "With or without the legislation, clearly it was certainly the commission's point of view these things needed to be done on everybody's part. To say the state should abandon its responsibility while we wait is probably not a good idea."
"I wouldn't characterize this as something antagonistic to the summer study. It would be complimentary to it," he added.
But Sen. C. Bernard Fowler, D-Calvert, who served on the commission, said he believes that the governor's office needs to work with the legislature over the summer to build support for a growth control effort before imposing new restrictions.
"I have the greatest respect for the governor and what he is trying to do, but this certainly comes at a time when the subdivisions are in opposition," he said. "The climate is not good for implementation of that plan."
Mr. Fowler estimated that "90 percent" of the local jurisdictions now oppose the plan, which many believe would allow the state to usurp land use decisions that rightly belong at the local level.
"No one should ignore the needs of managing growth. I don't intend to do that. But I believe we could be better served if we involved the jurisdictions," he said.