Readers Speak Out On Sprawl In Maryland

October 04, 2008

What's good for the environment is good for the economy ("The case against sprawl," editorial, Sept. 30). We certainly need smarter development patterns to restore the health of the bay. Fortunately, smart, efficient development decisions also save taxpayers money and allow governments to stretch dollars further.

Our governments and taxpayers can't afford the new roads, water and sewer connections and other public costs that result from scattered, poorly planned development. In these challenging times, efficient growth that makes use of our existing infrastructure has never been more important.

Smart Growth is good for the bay, good for our economy and good for us.

Kelly Carneal, Baltimore

The writer is director of local programs for 1,000 Friends of Maryland.

I agree that Smart Growth can go a long way toward solving Chesapeake Bay pollution. Local comprehensive plans should be built around priority funding areas, and zoning rules should implement these plans. The breakdown happens in Maryland when state planners are asked to, as The Baltimore Sun puts it, "make sure [local decisions] comply with growth criteria."

In reality, state planners only have the authority to review local comprehensive plans. They can attach limitations to projects needing state funding if they aren't in Smart Growth areas. But typically, these projects are public facilities needed to serve growth already built in the wrong place. Smart Growth requires a focus on goal-setting and a renewed partnership. When a community writes its comprehensive plan, its leaders need sound information to help them envision the consequences of the choices before them. The Maryland Department of Planning can enrich that discussion by modeling options and contributing a regional perspective.

Unfortunately, faced with a lack of funding, MDP has retreated from these activities to focus on regulation. But regulations are only effective when they rest on a strong consensus. That consensus is forged in comprehensive planning.

Joel A. Gallihue, Columbia

The writer helps develop new schools for the Howard County public school system.

It seems to me that the state is moving in two contrary directions on growth: on the one hand toward protecting the bay, ensuring Smart Growth and saving taxpayers the cost of new infrastructure, and on the other, allowing too much growth, supporting the base realignment and closure process and allowing local planning and land-use regulations inconsistent with comprehensive plans and state statutes.

One has to wonder if anyone has done a true cost-benefit analysis of BRAC and other growth and its impact on our infrastructure and quality of life.

John N. Bambacus, Frostburg

The writer is a former state senator and former mayor of Frostburg.

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