Readers Speak Out On Promoting Smart Growth

SPEAKOUT

December 15, 2008

Many thanks to The Baltimore Sun for the editorial calling for more action on Smart Growth ("Responsible growth," Dec. 7).

With our economy in such terrible shape, we must stop spreading houses over cornfields in patterns that maximize public service costs while also maximizing the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has been working for 20 years for conservation and sound land-use planning on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Over this time, we have seen great leadership from many of our counties and towns to ensure we preserve the region's rural character.

Our six counties have put, on average, about 30 percent of their rural lands into permanent preservation arrangements.

Most of our counties also have strong rural zoning policies that have pushed more than half of their annual new growth into designated growth areas since 2004, with some counties approaching our goal of having 80 percent of development occur within those designated growth areas by 2010.

Despite positive efforts, if current policies and trends continue, the Maryland Department of Planning projects that an additional 96,146 acres of Eastern Shore farms and forests will be developed by 2030 to house a projected population increase of 160,000 people.

Even more disturbing, the trend in Queen Anne's County is toward even more sprawl to house these new residents, with more than 70 percent of the permits for new homes in the county in 2007 issued for land zoned for farming or conservation.

This type of development maximizes per capita land consumption, maximizes impervious surfaces and their impact on the Chesapeake Bay, fragments our farming and habitat areas, increases congestion on our roads and the Bay Bridge and maximizes the costs of public services such as schools, roads and transportation.

As the editorial stated, public support for limits on growth has never been higher and the tolerance for wasting our tax dollars on sprawl has never been lower.

Greater accountability for growth and public spending is needed. And, importantly, it is needed now.

Rob Etgen, Queenstown

The writer is the executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.

I appreciated and enjoyed the editorial "Responsible growth."

I agree that Maryland needs to put the onus on local jurisdictions to uphold the basic tenets of their comprehensive plans. And these comprehensive plans should have strong policies and strategies that give teeth to Smart Growth initiatives around the state.

And I agree with the editorial that funding from the state should only go to projects being developed wisely, such as redevelopment in urban areas and stronger forest conservation measures in rural areas.

It is imperative for the state to keep on top of local jurisdictions and give them the tools and resources to implement Smart Growth policies.

The state should also provide funding for the kind of infrastructure that encourages Smart Growth: spending money on mass transit, urban redevelopment, sidewalks and environmentally sensitive stormwater systems.

And it should create severe disincentives for land-use practices that encourage sprawl.

Kate Fritz, Annapolis

The editorial "Responsible growth" was right on the button and echoed my feeling that we need to do everything we can to promote Smart Growth now.

Despite our budget woes, we can do much today to protect the future of our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Curbing overdevelopment is something local constituencies care about. However, time and time again, developers seem to hold the power over the decisions made by county councils and county executives, resulting in development decisions that ignore constituents' concerns about growth in their area.

All development decisions should be subject to clear Smart Growth guidelines; if they aren't, all of us will be hurt.

Theresa Lowry, Baltimore

The writer is director of Maryland Citizens for the Environment Inc.

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