Governor O’Malley’s smart growth initiative, PlanMaryland, has incited both passionate support and opposition. To its supporters, the state’s long-term plan for sustainable growth is a long overdue effort to reduce sprawl, protect our environment, and achieve a vision first recognized by the legislature decades ago. While opponents of the plan mistakenly claim that PlanMaryland will restrict growth in rural areas and transfer local decision-making power to Annapolis, the plan simply seeks to focus scarce state resources on development that will result in a smarter, greener, more prosperous future.
The stakes for Maryland are high. We’ve been moving in a direction that’s simply not sustainable.
Even critics can’t deny that Maryland has a limited amount of land. For decades now, the rate of land consumption has been triple the rate of population growth, consuming more than a million acres of farms and forests since the 1970’s – one and a half times the amount of land developed between the establishment of the colony and 1973.
If we don’t use a smarter approach to growth, it is estimated that we will need an additional $29 billion in road and school construction over the next 25 years just to keep pace with current trends. We’ll also undermine the public and private investments we have already made to restore the health of the Bay. Simply put, we cannot afford to keep chasing every strip mall and townhouse project with roads, sewers and utilities.
By implementing the smart growth principles in PlanMaryland, we can save Maryland taxpayers $1.5 billion each year in infrastructure costs. This smarter growth approach can also help us accommodate the 1 million additional residents, 500,000 new homes and 600,000 new jobs that experts project for Maryland by 2035.
We pay for sprawl not just in tax dollars, but also in time wasted sitting in traffic jams, in air polluted by automobiles and water fouled by runoff from impervious surfaces.
PlanMaryland will not take away local planning and zoning authority or impose burdensome regulations on development. But Governor O’Malley’s plan makes it clear that state dollars will no longer finance poor planning decisions and the resulting pollution and traffic congestion.
I support PlanMaryland because I want my children and their children to enjoy the quality of life that Maryland residents enjoy today.