Frequently Asked Questions
What is PlanMaryland?
In the mid 1950s, the State legislature, concerned about the spread of development, created the authority to develop a statewide development plan. Sprawl has continued despite efforts to slow it. The O’Malley administration is pursuing the process of a State Growth Plan under the name “PlanMaryland.”
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Why do we need it?
Over the next 20 years, there will be nearly 1 million more people in Maryland, more than 400,000 additional households and more than 600,000 new jobs. The state has a responsibility for accommodating where these people live and work, how they will get to their jobs and assessing what benefits and impact all this will have on our existing communities, our natural resources and our transportation systems.
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How does PlanMaryland effect economic development?
If we don’t get a handle on land use, the impact on agriculture and the bay could pose a threat to jobs that depend on those natural resources. At current trends, we project that Maryland will lose another 226,000 acres of farmland by 2035, subtracting $256 million in wealth and well-being, according to State’s Genuine Progress Indicator, Maryland is also forecast to lose 176,000 acres of forested land by 2035 at current trends, valued at $56 million. Low-density residential sprawl does not “save rural Maryland.” The fragmentation of rural communities threatens agribusiness. We want to strengthen and protect Maryland’s 12,800 family farms and the thousands of jobs they create and sustain.
PlanMaryland also seeks to put workers closer to jobs. Residential growth over 40 years has dispersed to a much greater extent than employment, which has raised transportation costs, energy use and commuting times. The 700+ million hours Marylanders spent commuting in 2009 was time valued at almost $9 billion. Dispersed growth is harder and more expensive to serve by public transportation. But we're planning major investments in the system, which will also create hundreds of jobs.
Are we using an “old law” as the basis for PlanMaryland?
No, we are satisfying the laws the General Assembly passed on several occasions, as late as 2010. Creation of State Development Plan was required in the 1959 law that created the Maryland Department of Planning. The State plan was given greater definition in the 1974 Land Use Act. And it was reiterated in the recent laws that created the Task Force for the Future for Growth and Development in 2007 and the Sustainable Growth Commission in 2010. The plan is also rooted in the 2009 legislation in which the General Assembly detailed 12 Planning Visions. They are at the heart of PlanMaryland. The legislature, by the way, required local governments to reflect those visions in their comprehensive plans and to ensure that their zoning matched those comp plans. We’re not “dictating” something new to local government on land use. Also, the Attorney General’s Office provided its legal opinion that the age of a statute has no legal effect on the ability of a State agency to act under its provisions.
Is this about the state trying to assert more control over local land use authority?
No, PlanMaryland is not a substitute for local comprehensive plans and it will not supplant local planning and zoning authority. The Attorney General’s Office has already given its opinion on that to the General Assembly. The plan’s main goal is to bring more transparency and organization to the process of smart growth.
With input will local government have on PlanMaryland AFTER it is implemented?
We made two significant changes in response to the comments we received:
- There will be no initial state designations of planning areas for growth and preservation; we want those to come from the local governments first.
- There will be input from local governments to the Smart Growth Subcabinet as proposed regarding the Subcabinet’s oversight of implementing PlanMaryland.
What do you mean by “sustainable”?
People have gotten wiser in the past decade or two about recycling and the things they throw away. The concept is much greater than plastic bottles, soda cans and newsprint, though. We can’t treat the waterways and natural resources of the state – and Maryland is fortunate to be blessed with an abundance of these – as infinite. The pattern of leaving behind our existing towns and cities is wasteful and inefficient, as is developing land at a pace that far outstrips the need to accommodate our population growth by historical measures.
If this is about Planning, why are other agencies involved such as Transportation and Natural Resources?
There’s a growing recognition of the need to take agencies out of their “silos” to focus on a common goal of making existing communities stronger, healthier, cleaner and safer. Goals for planning, development, conservation and sustainable quality of life are interdependent. Independent initiatives by the State or local governments won’t achieve the goals. Rural resource lands, for example, haven’t been sufficiently protected through the State’s preservation programs without local zoning and related tools limiting adjacent development. Greenhouse gas emissions can’t be effectively controlled by agencies charged with protecting the environment if a majority of the workforce can reach their jobs only by driving automobiles from homes so widely dispersed that they cannot be served by public transportation.
You mentioned the state’s “12 Visions” for planning. What are they?
The visions – or objectives, in some cases – are:
- Ensuring quality of life and sustainability
- Encouraging public participation
- Concentrating growth in existing population and business centers.
- Supporting compact, mixed–use, walkable communities that preserve cultural, historic and natural resources.
- Ensuring adequate infrastructure to accommodate growth.
- Providing a safe, convenient, affordable and efficient public transportation system.
- Fostering more affordable housing options
- Promoting job growth and economic development.
- Improved environmental protection
- Improved resource conservation
- Becoming stewards of sustainable communities with greater focus by government, business and residents.
- Greater coordination by levels of government.
Why are the 12 Planning Visions important?
The Planning Visions provide the foundation and framework for a community’s comprehensive plan. They give direction to local subdivision and zoning ordinances, which directly impacts people’s lives.
What do the Visions mean for Maryland citizens?
- Quality of life is enhanced through sustainable communities and healthy environments, which are created by controlling growth and protecting the land, water, and air.
- Citizens are empowered as active partners in the planning and visioning of their community’s goals.
- Transportation alternatives, employment, and a variety of residential options become more available to citizens of all ages and incomes.
- Land and water, including the Chesapeake Bay, forests, agricultural land, open spaces, and scenic areas are preserved and conserved for future generations.