States hail Smart Growth as model plan Officials come to Md. to discuss land-use ideas

July 08, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

From Oregon to New Jersey, states hoping to curb sprawl and revitalize older neighborhoods are turning to Maryland's Smart Growth initiative, hailing it as a model for planned development.

Prompted by concerns for the environment, the loss of farmland and the decline of cities, representatives from 20 states met yesterday at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore to exchange strategies for sensible land use.

"People from all walks of life are starting to see that they have an interest in smart growth," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Five years ago, few government leaders talked about curtailing sprawl, he said. "In the last few years, it has moved up the agenda. It's exploding on the national scene."

Moe credited Maryland and Gov. Parris N. Glendening for bringing attention to growth-control efforts. "The Maryland experience is enormously significant," he said. "It's the most important new idea we have seen in the last 20 years."

Until Maryland passed the Smart Growth initiative in 1997, states relied mainly on regulations to curtail sprawl. Oregon was a leader in that approach, enacting laws to require localities to draw up growth-management plans and adopt growth boundaries around the towns and cities.

The importance of the Maryland model, Moe said, is that it relies on financial incentives and disincentives rather than regulations to encourage managed growth. The state directs money toward revitalizing older towns and neighborhoods, and is telling counties not to expect state aid for projects that promote sprawl.

Maryland also has sought a broad base of support by increasing money for farm preservation and encouraging businesses to redevelop old industrial sites.

"Maryland has the most widely discussed smart growth effort in the nation," said John De Grove, director of the Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

While Maryland is considered a leader, other states are taking BTC steps to control sprawl. In New Jersey, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman is dusting off a 12-year-old plan to control development and is funneling state money to areas targeted for growth.

New Jersey intends to preserve from development nearly 2 million acres, or about 20 percent of the state, said Herbert Simmens, director of the New Jersey State Planning Office.

In Delaware, the governor's Cabinet oversees planning and channels government spending to localities that have growth-management plans.

In Pennsylvania, a commission is preparing a report that calls for legal and financial reforms to encourage controlled growth.

"The issue is rising to the top of policy-makers' thinking," Glendening said. "There are a lot of good ideas out there where we can learn from one another."

Robin Grove of the National Governor's Association, which sponsored yesterday's event, said he expects new governors to embrace smart growth efforts after this fall's election.

"The governors are seeing there is political mileage to be gained from smart growth," he said.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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