Planning Assistance in Action
On February 15, at the Wharves of Choptank Visitor Center in Denton, A Better Maryland passed the halfway point in its initial outreach period. The Caroline County listening sessions marked the 13th of 24 (all 23 counties and Baltimore City) engagement events that the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) is conducting through early spring. The purpose of the sessions is to discover how officials, staff, and members of the community think A Better Maryland, the new state development plan, can best assist them in advancing local planning, economic, and community development objectives.
The outpouring of innovative solutions has been inspiring. Many evenings, while driving back from community sessions, project team members have discussed the strategies expressed and considered ways that A Better Maryland can incorporate them. Locals best know how their counties and municipalities can ensure the strong quality of life that Marylanders enjoy, and Planning staff have been impressed with the quality and depth of the meeting comments. Special Secretary of Smart Growth, Wendi Peters, noted at the January 30 meeting in Kent County that “Planning is not here to change anything, but to gather a better understanding of assistance the state can provide, and it is important to stay focused on results.”
While community members have shared their thoughts at meetings in counties from Garrett to Howard and Worcester, hundreds of Marylanders have also completed the brief online survey, with questions mirroring those addressed by listening session attendees. Chuck Boyd, project manager for A Better Maryland, designed the engagement effort to gather comparable input across a broad array of formats, providing a robust final data set. Planning strives to make participation as convenient as possible, but also relevant to the lives of community stakeholders. Joe Griffiths, who works on the project team, jokes that, “if you attend a listening session and complete the online survey, you get double the input”.
The first question asked at the public listening sessions and in the survey, is “What is your community’s greatest strength”? The word cloud to the right illustrates the answers. The larger a word appears in the word cloud, the greater the number of responses from the participants. Planning concurs that the people of Maryland are its greatest asset, and we are excited to continue our collaboration to build A Better Maryland.
Planning organizes listening session input on the Input page of the project website, and will do so for every County. Visit ABetter.Maryland.Gov to see what others in the state are suggesting. Some common themes thus far include:
- The desire for a regional approach to state assistance and planning
- Better collaboration between state agencies
- Support for economic development and job creation
- Environmental protection and land preservation
- Assistance with increasing the amount of workforce, generational, and affordable housing
- Engaging local populations in planning and volunteer opportunities
Outreach for A Better Maryland continues at a rapid pace in March, with several listening sessions scheduled. Visit the project Events page for more details.
- Carroll County: Thursday, March 1
- Baltimore City: Monday, March 5 (Officials) and Wednesday, March 7 (Public)
- Dorchester County: Tuesday, March 6
- Baltimore County: Staff Session Friday, March 9
- Frederick County: Tuesday, March 13
- Talbot County: Thursday, March 15 (Public) and Friday, March 16 (Officials and Staff)
- Calvert County: Tuesday, March 27
- Prince George’s County: Wednesday, March 28
Maryland has a tremendous diversity of communities, people, assets, and challenges. For example, Baltimore City Planning staff, at the February 2 session, discussed the chance to “re-imagine some of the communities in a new paradigm”, while a participant at the Kent County public session on January 30 noted “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, most of the residents here are very happy with the way the County is.” A Better Maryland promotes the adage that “One Size Does Not Fit All” and aspires to establish effective, dynamic, and adaptive strategies for all of Maryland’s counties. As Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters notes, “We are here to learn about local priorities, and to work with all stakeholders to establish creative, community-driven results.”
To learn more about A Better Maryland and how you can get involved, please visit abetter.maryland.gov or contact Chuck Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-767-1401.