Glendening asks builders for Smart Growth code

Task force to study ideas developed at conference

May 27, 1999|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

Hoping to make it easier for developers to build in existing communities, Gov. Parris N. Glendening wants a statewide model building code to go along with his Smart Growth program.

He asked a conference of builders, architects and environmentalists meeting in Baltimore yesterday to "design me a code any county can adopt" to encourage Smart Growth policies.

Too often, he said, developers who want to rehabilitate buildings in older communities are hamstrung by strict building and safety codes that make the projects difficult. Instead, they put up buildings farther out in the suburbs, requiring local governments to build more roads and sewers.

"In most parts of our state, you couldn't build a new Annapolis, or an Ellicott City or downtown Frederick," Glendening said. "No building code would permit that. Yet these are the most desirable cities in our state today."

The governor was short on specifics as he outlined the problem and asked the conference to come up with solutions.

A task force from the state Office of Planning and Department of Housing and Community Development is to study ideas generated at the conference and make specific recommendations for legislation in the next General Assembly session.

John W. Frece, Glendening's assistant for Smart Growth, said the governor is not trying to impose a statewide building code, but to find a way to encourage local governments to adopt the provisions that fit Smart Growth policies.

Under Smart Growth, the state refuses to help pay for roads, sewers, schools and other infrastructure outside designated growth areas in an effort to cut suburban sprawl.

Bill Struever, whose development firm rehabilitated the dormant American Can Co. plant in Baltimore's Canton section, said the state has been cooperative in his projects, but some code requirements have made those projects more difficult.

"There are definitely some issues out there, but the state has come a long way in the last couple years," he said.

The Maryland Association of Counties, which opposed the Smart Growth initiative early on, but later supported it, is looking for "a partnership approach," said David Bliden, executive director.

"There's always the debate of state control over local autonomy, but it should come down to the local citizens who make the decisions," he said.

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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