Ways to grow

May 24, 2006

A developer wants to erect a 4,300-home community on rural land right by the Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County. There's a push to remake areas by Prince George's County Metro stations with much more dense residential and commercial developments. In the Baltimore area - from Fort Meade to Aberdeen Proving Ground - the recent military realignment will bring as many as 60,000 federal and private-sector jobs and perhaps even more new residents. And on the Eastern Shore, farmland - particularly land anywhere near the seashore - is rapidly being developed into second-home and retirement communities.

Maryland already is the fifth most densely populated state, and by 2030, it is expected to add 1.5 million residents. This growth is virtually inevitable, but what's not inevitable is where in Maryland this growth will occur and what land-use patterns will result.

That's the product of large and small decisions being made every day by myriad private interests and state and local officials. Sometimes they plan carefully and sometimes not, but they seldom, if ever, are able to stop to take into account regional or statewide considerations.

Over the next few weeks, however, a unique series of regional gatherings will give Maryland political, business, environmental, real estate and civic leaders - as well as interested residents - a chance to concretely envision how growth should play out in their part of the state, as well as in the state as a whole. Called "Reality Check Plus," the four growth-management exercises - sponsored by the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, the Urban Land Institute and 1000 Friends of Maryland, among other groups - will take place:

On the Eastern Shore at the Cambridge Hyatt tomorrow.

In Western Maryland at Hagerstown Community College on June 2.

In Central Maryland at the Baltimore Convention Center on June 9.

In Southern Maryland at St. Mary's College on June 15.

In each region, citizens are being invited to participate; they can find out how at www.realitycheckmaryland.org. Such growth exercises have been held before in Maryland, but never on a scale that will result in a statewide vision of how Maryland will look in 25 years. That vision, of course, will only be as good as the degree and quality of the participation in these exercises. If you care about the long-term quality of life in your region and in this state, take time for a reality check now.

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