Officials study report on growth Commissioners lament lack of time to review state's proposals

'It's quite frustrating'

Planner expects some suggestions to become policy of Glendening

September 10, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners complained yesterday that they have not been given enough time to study far-ranging growth control proposals contained in a 100-page report compiled by the state planning office.

Philip J. Rovang, the county planning director, said he expects that some of the recommendations designed to prevent urban sprawl soon will become the policy of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The governor's office and five state departments will review about 100 recommendations from civic groups, business organizations, local governments, state agencies and individual citizens this month and decide which to support, change or drop.

Among the most controversial are proposals to incorporate communities with more than 1,000 residents and to push counties with commissioner governments to adopt home rule. Rovang said the governor is expected to announce in mid-October an administrative and legislative package.

"It's been quite frustrating," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said. "There are some gems of some good ideas in the report, but they got lost in the rush to make it appear that the state is not dictating to the local governments.

"The discussions that ought to take place won't take place. All of us -- even the most pro-growth -- don't want to do anything that would seriously hurt the environment. Yet we all have to sit down and within five days, have to vote up or down, yes or no."

Some of the items in the Neighborhood Conservation and Smart Growth report "may become recommendations of the governor, but they are not yet that at all," said Judi Scioli, Glendening's press secretary. "What the governor is interested in," she said, "is hearing from the localities."

The commissioners directed Rovang to underscore proposals they find attractive -- and those that concern them -- when passing along their comments to Ronald Young, deputy director of the Maryland Office of Planning.

Among the recommendations that generally drew unfavorable responses from Carroll's three commissioners are those that would: Restrict state funding of transportation projects to developed areas or areas designated for development so as to discourage long-distance automobile commuting.

Require a state-approved economic impact study if a bypass is to receive state funding.

Reconfigure the state school busing formula to discourage rural subdivision development.

Encourage neighborhoods with like concerns to incorporate as municipalities.

End the General Assembly practice of passing local laws in order to foster charter government or some other form of home rule.

The deadline for submitting comments was Thursday, but Commissioner Richard T. Yates received an extension that expires today.

"I brought the report home with me, and I think we need a lot more time to study it," Yates said. "A lot of the administrative recommendations sound like they came out of the governor's office. I get the feeling they're trying to force the administration's will on local governments."

But the book of recommendations "is not meant as a list of top-down solutions," said Scioli. "It is the opposite of that. It is being circulated to get reaction to ideas put forward by many different groups and people. The governor wants these solutions to come from the localities."

Thomas Bass, a special assistant to Young at the state planning office, said an early deadline was necessary because "it is the nature of things for the governor to want to have a little lead time" to review responses from local officials before putting together an administrative and legislative package.

In most cases, there was nothing in the book of recommendations that county officials and planners have not seen before, Bass said.

"In the long run, I'm not sure when the program is going to end," he said. "Smart growth and neighborhood conservation are on the agenda of a lot of states."

Because they had taken so much time yesterday going over their concerns, the commissioners were unable to consider more than a few of the 10 proposals Rovang had suggested they might choose to support.

Among those discussed for favorable endorsement yesterday were proposals that would:

Use surplus state property to stimulate development, investment and employment.

Subsidize expansions, meeting strict criteria to encourage "contiguous, orderly growth patterns," of community water and sewer facilities.

Develop minischools of the kind being used in Florida as "an innovative alternative" to the traditional kindergarten, middle and elementary schools.

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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