GOVERNOR Smart Growth has done it again, this time to the solid citizens of Washington County. He's going to spend a ton of money to build a branch campus of the University of Maryland in the heart of downtown Hagerstown. Urban renewal redux. Restore a city that is in decline. More government jobs.
Except the university and the county government don't want it there.
They, better than the governor, recognize that the vitality of a community is not confined to the artificial boundary lines that the political scientists (e.g., Gov. Parris N. Glendening) love to draw.
That's not the way communities function, or the way that most people view their community, even if such boundary lines are important tax collection matters to local authorities.
So if a college center will have better public access and better amenities outside the defined downtown core, why not build it outside the line and make it a success?
No way, the state executive says, because it doesn't meet the inflexible, blinder-style of leadership that he embraces.
Citizens of Carroll County are well-acquainted with the Smart Growth decisions of Mr. Glendening that have axed planned state highway bypasses around Westminster and Manchester.
The Hampstead bypass remains a live plan only because of a bureaucratic snag.
The habitat of legally protected bog turtles remains square in the way, halting any action for a couple of years until more studies are completed.
Indeed, if there's one thing that Smart Growth is designed to achieve, it is delay. Delay until Mr. Glendening rides into the sunset come 2003, a feckless Don Quixote looking for new windmills to challenge.
Whether it be the Intercounty Connector highway in the Washington suburbs or the state law enforcement training center for Sykesville, the practical effect is to delay these projects until someone else has to deal with the problems.
They'll resurface, and likely go ahead at some point, after Mr. Glendening has left Annapolis.
For he can delay things, but he cannot kill them.
When we last visited the police training center, planned for the former grounds of Springfield Hospital Center, it was to be split in half by the Solomonic judgment of Governor Smart Growth.
The firearms range and the driving course were to be completed at the 800-acre Martin Gross complex site, at about half the total cost.
The other half -- classrooms, offices, dorms -- were to be located in a more populated urban area, as part of the governor's curious sprawl-control vision.
But finding an alternative site was more difficult than his majesty imagined. So his functionaries came up with another state hospital grounds, at Spring Grove in Catonsville, western Baltimore County.
Those neighbors weren't happy about the construction project. They, too, wanted to fight development sprawl and the traffic burden it imposes. Governor Smart Growth's plans represented the evil he was supposed to be fighting.
Plans for a public hearing on the site evaporated without much notice. The Smart Growth planners never came up with another place that was clamoring to host the training center and add hundreds of cars a day to neighborhood streets.
Meantime, the two members of the state Board of Public Works besides the governor declare they won't approve any land acquisition or other spending for any statewide police training facility that is not located at Sykesville.
That leaves Mr. Glendening as a minority of one on the powerful board, even though the chief executive has extensive budget powers to challenge the board's authority.
But Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon are as stubborn as any politician Mr. Glendening ever met. And they've pledged not to back down from support of the Springfield site for the entire police center.
Barring the unexpected -- that means another three years on hold for the statewide center, which has been in the works for a dozen years already.
Here's where the situation gets even more ridiculous: As the standoff continues, Mr. Glendening is preparing to give the venerable town of Sykesville another 138 acres of Springfield Hospital land to annex and develop.
That Warfield complex land sits next to the already developed state mental hospital grounds that Governor Smart Growth would protect at all costs from redevelopment, within earshot of the range's pistol fire and squealing tires on the driving track.
Once Sykesville officially absorbs the Warfield parcel (agreement with Carroll County on development coordination is the current hang-up) it will be so close to the Martin Gross complex that even Smart Growth would allow the completion of full facilities at that site. But that reality is several years away, and won't have to be addressed by Mr. Glendening.
Smart Growth ought to achieve rational location of new development, with a broader view of community and economic impact than the governor possesses.
Mike Burns is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.