PlanMaryland will ruin the suburban lifestyle

November 05, 2011

Here's a wake-up call for Gov. Martin O'Malley and other supporters of PlanMaryland: The American Dream has never been a red brick row-house or even a condo with a Starbucks, Whole Foods and North Face store on the ground floor. It's a suburban or rural single-family home, with a white picket fence out front, two cars in the driveway and kids playing with the dog in the backyard.

Few Italians or Greeks live in Little Italy or Greektown any more because their descendants have achieved the American dream, and they have quite literally moved on to greener pastures.

But Mr. O'Malley's PlanMaryland centers on promoting "high-density development" in existing areas. That benefits Montgomery County and Baltimore City at the expense of other suburban and rural areas, pushing investment there instead of outlying jurisdictions. Mr. O'Malley apparently cares nothing about helping the economies of Salisbury, Cambridge or Hagerstown, since his party gets few votes from those areas.

Moreover, PlanMaryland threatens the quality of life in the areas with existing infrastructure that development will be directed toward. Rockville's transformation over the past 20 years has been an overwhelmingly negative transition. Not only has every piece of open space been developed, but existing strip malls have been replaced by imposing apartment behemoths. There is more traffic and overcrowding every year.

The suburban landscape and lifestyle that once attracted people to Rockville, White Marsh, Columbia and Towson have come under siege as "smart growth" advocates push additional development in these communities. Many residents originally chose to live in those areas to enjoy suburban living. It's unfair to impose the city back on them all these years later.

Maryland's relatively small size means many major employment centers are within easy commuting distance of areas across state lines. For example, county regulations have limited growth in many parts of northern Baltimore County. The result has been that instead of workers commuting from new developments in Hereford and Parkton, they now commute from York County, Penn., where one can still enjoy a suburban way of life at reasonable cost.

In addition, taxes there are lower — they don't have to pay for illegal immigrants to go to school — and people don't even have to pay a toll to drive from Pennsylvania, whereas the O'Malley administration now puts a $3 toll on commuters traveling from Dundalk to downtown Baltimore.

Most people do not prefer urban living; if we did, then market forces would have already steered development into downtown Baltimore instead of suburban and rural counties — hence negating the need for PlanMaryland's social engineering.

Perhaps Governor O'Malley and the legislature should think about all the tax revenues that are flowing — and will continue to flow — to Harrisburg, Richmond, Charleston and Dover instead of Annapolis, thanks to the policies they support.

Eric Tong, Dundalk

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