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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?