Governor urges Smart Growth at anti-sprawl conference Session in Baltimore draws more than 1,100 from around Md., nation

June 05, 1997|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

Pointing to his efforts to curb suburban sprawl in Maryland, Gov. Parris N. Glendening urged more than 1,100 people attending a "smart growth" summit in Baltimore yesterday to work for change in development practices nationwide.

"Simply put, sprawl is a disease eating away at the heart of America," Glendening said in a speech closing the daylong conference at the Convention Center.

The session, which drew architects, environmentalists, planners and politicians from across Maryland and the nation, was sponsored by the state and the Federal Transit Administration.

Federal Transit Administrator Gordon J. Linton said concern about sprawl is growing "all across the country," and business and government leaders are struggling to deal with it. Linton said his goal, through meetings like the one in Baltimore, is "to see if we can change the landscape of America."

Praise for Smart Growth

Speaker after speaker praised Maryland for enacting Glendening's Smart Growth legislation, which aims to curb sprawl by using state funding as an incentive.

"You are in an ideal position to be America's laboratory," said Oregon Rep. Al Blumenauer, who has been a leader in largely successful efforts to contain sprawl surrounding Portland.

Portland has limited sprawl by setting urban growth boundaries around the city and by building near mass transit. But Blumenauer said Maryland has made "a good start" with its legislation barring state funds for roads and schools for developments in areas not served by water and sewer lines.

Maryland's Smart Growth law, proposed by Glendening, doesn't take effect until Oct. 1, 1998, but the governor said he has instructed state agency heads to begin using grants and loans to local governments as incentives for directing growth.

"Centers of the community, hubs for activity, should not be suburban facilities," he declared.

Other steps suggested

Other speakers at the summit recommended additional steps, such as expanding mass transit and replacing "dead" suburban malls with old-style neighborhoods of front-porch homes, parks, shops and offices.

California architect Peter Calthorpe, a leading advocate of a planning movement called New Urbanism, said such redevelopment can help revitalize cities and older suburbs. He also urged community leaders to cooperate to "de-concentrate poverty" so that revenue-strapped cities are not saddled with the bulk of the poor.

"Towns and cities and neighborhoods are the dwelling places of civilization," said James Howard Kunstler, who has written several books and articles critical of post-World War II development. He likened suburban sprawl to a soul-deadening invasion of UFOs touching down in cornfields and cow pastures across the country.

"The living arrangement Americans now think of as normal is bankrupting us economically, socially, ecologically and spiritually," he said.

Pub Date: 6/05/97

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