News Picks

Friday, August 31, 2007

Debate Over Wind Power: Is there merit to the critisims?

Wind farms are nothing new to some parts of the United States. In fact, wind projects are in the midst of a huge growth spurt in many parts of the country, driven by government incentives to promote alternatives to fossil fuels. Significant public debate and navigation of a "hodgepodge" of regulations has risen from the increased interest in renewable energy alternatives such as wind power. While public debate over inland and offshore wind power is likely to be centered on environmental and aesthetic issues. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Smart Growth @ 10 Conference

In 1997, Maryland burst into the national spotlight with the passage of its Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation initiative. The initiative gained broad national recognition and praise. 2007 marks the 10-year anniversary of Maryland's experiment with Smart Growth. Yet the question remains: Has Smart Growth changed the development pattern in Maryland?

To address these and other related questions, the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education is organizing a three-day conference in early October 2007 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Maryland's landmark Smart Growth legislation. The conference is being co-hosted by Resources for the Future.

You can also see my recent article series on Smart Growth in Maryland at:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Will Michigan Local Governance Structure Join the 21st Century?

Perhaps, finally, Michigan's system of local government will move into the 20th century (even though we're in the 21st century). An article from the Michigan Land Use Institute based in Traverse City, MI, reports that the State May Push Local Governments To Cooperate, indicating that the state lawmakers may be re-examining the antiquated and complex system of operating and delivering services to counties, cities, villages and townships. One of the biggest problems with the system, in this blogger/smart growth advocate's view, is that many Michigan township's form of small government duplicate many services and waste taxpayer dollars. Township's resistance to thinking regionally and acting cooperatively, has hampered the states ability to pool resources and address shared issues. These issues include not only land use and environment, but also local emergency services, public schools and other critical public services. There has been research supporting Michigan government reform for several years (see links below). Having been involved in and worked in Michigan at state, county, city and township levels, I know that something needs to change in the state to get Michigan on the right track again. See the links in this post to find out more about this issue.

White Paper H: Intergovernmental Cooperation and Revenue Sharing

Task Force on Local Government Services and Fiscal Stability May 2006 Special Report

Thursday, August 23, 2007

South Florida's Wetlands Serve Many Purposes

From National Public Radio:
More than 1,000 miles of canals snake through South Florida -- from the Everglades to the Keys. And love them or hate them, the area can't do without them. They're crucial for flood control and serve as, among other things, habitat for alligators and a dump for stolen cars. Hear the story at

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Declares Drought Disaster Designation for Entire State Maryland

State and federal officials estimate that farmers in Maryland have lost between 30 and 60 percent of their crops due to the severe dry weather and excessive heat from June 1 that has continued through the summer months. This designation makes Maryland farm operators eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA Farm Service Agency. See Maryland Dept of Ag Aug 22, 2007 press release:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Amazing Footage of a Flash Flood in Progress

More on Maryland Environmental Design

A new law in Maryland will take effect next year for design standards. The new law requires MDE to establish regulations and a model ordinance that requires implementation of environmental site design to the maximum extent practicable. Developers will be required to demonstrate that ESD has been implemented to the maximum extent practicable and that standard best management practices have been used only where absolutely necessary.
Read it all in the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers latest newsletter here

Katrina aid goes toward luxury condos

Rich developers are getting richer by cashing in on Katrina aid and huge tax breaks that is for building housing for displaced Gulf Coast residents. Low income people in the region will not be able to afford the vast majority of these new condos. So who will buy/live them? Another way to push out the poor and minorities and bring in white, (or black) middle/upper class. Can you say "gen-tri-fi-ca-tion"? I knew that you could. See article in USA Today:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Local Governments Mandating Climate Change Analysis Will Be a Tough Sell

King County, Washington State, will be mandating that climate analysis be included in EIS and similar reviews starting Sept 1. I highly doubt that many more gov's in other parts of the country have the will or resources to follow this example as good as it sounds. It will be interesting to see how many problems they run into trying to work the kinks out of the program/policy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Facts About Islands in the Great Lakes Region

The 35,000 islands of the Great Lakes form a superlative natural system. In fact, the largest lake island in the world is Manitoulin in Lake Huron (Ontario), covering 1,068 square miles. Due to their isolation, islands have unique properties warranting special attention and protection. The properties of Great Lakes islands include high proportions of endemic and endangered species, fish spawning areas, open and perched dunes, and nesting colonial waterbirds and migratory waterfowl. These islands contain many critical natural features, cultural resources, and recreational opportunities that, despite being threatened by pressures of unplanned development and habitat destruction, have yet to be holistically addressed.

More Great Lakes island facts:

  • The Thirty Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay, Ontario, actually include around 17,500 islands.

  • The Thousand Islands between New York and Ontario number about 1,500.

  • Lake of the Woods, shared by Ontario, Minnesota and Manitoba, is said to contain 14,000 islands.

  • Finland claims to have more islands than any other country, with a stated total of 179,584. However, Canada probably exceeds this number with its immense areas of island-strewn lakes and thousands of miles of rocky coastline.

  • The largest island created by human action is the Ile Rene-Lavasseur, a 780-square-mile island in Manicouagan Reservoir, Quebec. The reservoir was formed by the damming of a river to flood a 210 million-year-old meteor crater. The crater's central uplift became the island.

Find more interesting Great Lakes facts at Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN)

Anne Arundel County, MD Receives $1 Million From State For Stream Restoration

On Wednesday Gov. Martin O'Malley announced a $1 million grant to help restore part of Cowhide Branch, one of the main tributaries of the troubled Weems Creek. Weems Creek resides in the Severn River watershed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The entire restoration project will cost $2.3 million, with AA County chipping in $1.3 million.

The Cowhide Branch sub watershed covers about 535 acres, with 52 percent covered by impervious surfaces like parking lots, roads, and roofs. Research shows more than 14 percent of impervious surface in an area seriously impairs a watershed. The Cowhide has suffered serious impairment for many years. Many point to the 1993 incident when a stormwater retention pond adjacent to the stream area failed and collapsed after heavy rains had moved through the area. The pond failure release thousands of gallons of sediment laden water into Weems Creek, then, eventually into the Severn River. This, combined with continuing development, and increased impervious surface area within the watershed, Weems Creek has not had a chance to rejuvenate itself naturally.

I was really glad to hear about the award from the state to help restore this section of the creek. AA County should be commended for the work it has been doing over the past several years with its environment/restoration programs. This project is a small, yet valuable step toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay. But there is a long way to go.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

River dredging sends Great Lakes water levels lower

Get the story from the Detroit Free Press here

New Maryland DNR Environmental Design Program

Maryland Environmental Design Program
Environmental Design Program provides the business community, local governments and interested citizens with the information and on-site technical assistance they need to identify, implement and evaluate actions to enhance and restore natural resources in and around developed environments.

Smart Growth Maryland, Part Two: What's the big deal with annexation and planning?

In Maryland, as in most other states, municipal corporations (usually cities or villages) may enlarge its corporate boundaries. Municipal annexation is the process of legally including within the corporate limits of a
city or town an unincorporated area that is outside the municipality. Historically, this process was not limited to municipalities. In the 1800s, the U.S. Congress successfully annexed the state of Texas, which prevented it from becoming a recognized republic by Mexico. Later, in 1898, the United States annexed the territory of Hawaii, which eventually led to its statehood in 1959.

Click here for rest of article

Next article in series-Part Three: Planning for Water Resources

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Does Elitism Exist in the Environmental Movement?

I must say that although I've only been a part of the environmental movement for a few years, I like to think that most environmentalists are enlightened, tolerant people who have the ability to behave civilly even when they disagree. My optimism was shaken this past week when a colleague of mine, African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) President Norris McDonald (above) and his son, who were invited guests, were told to leave the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action on the third day of the gathering in Asheville, NC because, as one of the organizers stated, "We do not share the same beliefs and goals." Read the full story at To the organizers of the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action, I say this:

I find it outrageous that Mr. McDonald, an African American, environmental activist for over twenty years (an extremely rare find, believe me), was treated in such a demeaning way for simply having a difference of opinion in what is supposed to be an enlightened discussion forum. It's bad enough that minorities have been, and still are, grossly ignored by the environmental movement in the community it is supposed to serve and in hiring practices, but to be shut out that manner is disgraceful. You and many others in your elitist circle need to take a good look at yourselves in a mirror, reevaluate what your priorities are and decide what and who you really stand for.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Plan to control Lake Okeechobee water levels

FLORIDA: The Army Corps of Engineers released its revised plan this week to control Lake Okeechobee water levels. The plan, which revises the initial draft released last year, allows south Florida water managers more flexibility to react to wet and dry conditions (Ryan Lengerich, Fort Myers News-Press).

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Article From Lincoln Institute on Land Policy

Land Use and Design Innovations in Private Communities

Eran Ben-Joseph discusses the world wide increase in private residential communities, also called common interest communities (CICs) or common interest developments (CIDs). He asserts that they are now becoming a viable choice for both suburban and urban residential development.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Smart Growth Maryland Part One: Sprawl and the smart growth movement

The Towson University Center for GIS glossary defines urban sprawl as:

a pattern of land use/land cover conversion in which the growth rate of urbanized land (land rendered impervious by development) significantly exceeds the rate of population growth over a specified time period, with a dominance of low-density impervious surfaces. Whether you agree or disagree with this definition or call it something else, it matters not for the purposes of this article. Chances are that, if your reading this, you have probably already formed your own opinion of what urban sprawl is or is not. As may also be the case with the concept of "smart growth". Over the next few weeks, I plan to present here are some of my observations and opinions on how the State of Maryland is addressing this planning and growth issue.

Smart Growth Movement in Maryland

Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, also known as the Planning and Zoning Enabling Act, provides local jurisdiction authority over local land use and growth decisions. The law requires local governments that engage in planning acitivies, to implement and address certain visions in thier comprehensive plans. The Maryland Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Act of 1992 (the Planning Act) was enacted to organize and direct comprehensive planning, regulating, and funding by State, county, and municipal governments in furtherance of a specific economic growth and resource protection policy. The 1992 Planning Act laid the ground work for the Smart Growth movement by requiring two new elements in comprehensive plans, a sensitive areas element and a regulatory streamlining element. Since the late 1990s the State of Maryland has been making great strides implementing smart growth principles into its key planning stautes. Some would say that this Maryland "smart growth movement" began during former Governor Glendening's administration, with the Smart Growth Priority Funding Areas Act of 1997. The legislation was an effort to, 1) reduce the impact of urban sprawl on the environment and encourage growth in existing communities, 2) to protect Maryland's green spaces and to preserve the State's rural areas, 3) to preserve the State's rural areas, and 4) to manage growth by restricting State funding to designated Primary Funding Areas (PFAs). Maryland has adopted as its 10 principles of smart growth.

Next Article

Smart Growth Maryland Part Two: What's the bid deal with annexation?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Can USGS Compete with Google Earth?

The National Map (, "The nations' topographic map for the 21st century", is an online, interactive map service provided by the United States Geographical Survey (USGS). The National Map provides public access to high-quality, geospatial data and information from multiple partners to help support decisionmaking by resource managers and the public. The National Map is the product of a consortium of Federal, State, and local partners who provide geospatial data to enhance America's ability to access, integrate, and apply geospatial data at global, national, and local scales.

Richmond VA Blacks Were Left out of New City Plan Process

A fellow community and urban planning blogger (Urban Richmond), picked up on this story, On Racism & the Charrette. Accusations of racial exclusion in city planning charrette. This is a topic that is of great interest and importance to me, personally. I plan to follow this and hope to do some future articles on the issue of minorities not being proportionately represented in their community's planning process. Also See: Master Plan Sessions Confront Race, Push Details from Richmond's Style Weekly.