League Tries To Nail Shut 2020 Coffin

Regional Leaders Remain Hostile To Proposed State Plan

July 28, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

OCEAN CITY — The state's controversial growth-management proposal, called the 2020 legislation, failed in the General Assembly and was sentenced to "summer study," where many measures die slow deaths.

But municipal officials from Carroll and across Maryland remain wary about what a reincarnation of the proposal might hold in store for regional governments.

"The state was essentially saying how much we (municipalities) are going to grow and where we are going to grow," said Mount Airy Councilman Marcum Nance. "I have a problem with that."

A session on the status of the 2020 legislation was among the several workshops presented during the 44th annual convention of the Maryland Municipal League, a non-profit federation representing 149 regional governments across the state.

The league is composed of more than 400 municipal officials -- mayors, City Council members and administrators -- who came to this seaside resort city for the three-day convention that concluded Wednesday.

The 2020 package was one of the preeminent legislative pieces offered by Gov. William Donald Schaefer during the pastsession of the General Assembly. A study leading up to the proposal found that an additional 1 million people would move to Maryland by the year 2020. The legislation was intended to serve as a growth plan to meet the needs of the new population.

In general, the package called for future growth to be concentrated in areas of existing development and infrastructure. The purpose was to limit "sprawl" development and to protect natural resource areas, especially the Chesapeake Bay.

But the measure was besieged from the start, with one state legislator labeling it "dead on arrival" upon its introduction in the assembly.

Opposition from municipalities was overwhelming and instantaneous. The package called for requiring land-use planning to be reviewed and approved by state planners, leaving regional governments irked that partial control over their zoning administration would be transferred to the state level.

"I think it's best to be handled at the local level," Manchester Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime said of municipal land-use decisions. "There are always local circumstancesthat are best worked out locally."

Some towns and cities already have comprehensive plans or master plans, which serve as blueprints for growth and development, and officials were rankled because parts of 2020 ran afoul of those plans.

"After about two years' work (on a comprehensive plan), we pretty much had everything in order," said Warehime.

Many regional governments, including some in Carroll, sent letters to the governor or to the state planning office registering their objections to the plan. Schaefer, who addressed the convention membership Tuesday, said he was "irritated" by the lack of support for the measure from municipalities. He said he was particularly disheartened after the league's leaders canceled meetings to discuss the proposal shortly after it was unveiled.

"I felt that you were pulling away from me," the governor told the group.

Schaefer conceded that the measure will probably be much different when it returns fromsummer study, but he asked the local officials to give it further consideration and offer some suggestions.

"You might take a look at 2020," he said. "Help me write the right law."

Carroll officials said they'd like to see a revision that is light on mandates and more centered on recommendations for regional planning.

"We'd like to see guidelines, not laws," said Sykesville Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "What would help is a model ordinance that towns could adopt."

Municipalities might not have had so much trouble with the proposal had they put more effort into studying it, the governor said. But Carroll officials said the measure was too bulky and complex.

"Nobody could understand it," Schumacher said.

Said Nance, "I don't think any of us felt qualified to look at the law."

One element of the package that troubled regional officials was a population density requirement. In the case of Mount Airy, the required density was higher than the existing one, and the town would have been mandated to encourage more intensive development within town limits, said Nance.

Officials also said there wasn't ample time to study the proposal.

"They tried to shove it through," Warehime said.

*

In addition to the workshop sessions, the agenda for the convention included several extracurricular activities.

Members who arrived the day before the convention were invited to take part in a golf tournament at Eagle's Landing Golf Course. And on Tuesday afternoon, a softball gamewas played at North Side Park.

The Carroll chapter gathered with its counterpart from Frederick County Monday night for a cocktail hour and then dinner at the Hobbit restaurant. On Tuesday, the league's members were invited to a crab feast at Phillips Crab House.

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