Planning Assistance in Action

One year ago, at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Planning to work together with local governments, state agencies, Maryland residents and other stakeholders on a 21st century plan moving Maryland forward – growing responsibly and protecting our resources.

We conducted a series of three listening sessions in every county and Baltimore City: one with Planning and Economic Development staff, one with elected officials, and an open public session. In many instances, we used the time between the sessions to have our regional planners conduct tours of projects and areas that are of particular importance to the local governments. A local view and hearing firsthand the local perspective enhances our understanding of local concerns.

Planning staff traveled hundreds of miles as part of this initial outreach. The notes from all our meetings have been summarized, digested, cross-tabbed and posted to our website, http://abetter.maryland.gov/. More than 2000 unique comments have been categorized by the related state agencies that may play a role in addressing the comment. In addition, we held two webinars and hosted an online survey which garnered over 1500 responses.

The feedback submitted demonstrates that Marylanders overwhelmingly support both economic development and environmental preservation. Simply put, Marylanders want a good job and a clean environment. As we see it, the core of Smart Growth is economic development and environmental preservation which is also the core of A Better Maryland.

Having completed this extensive outreach we have seen a number of themes emerge that are important to consider as we look at the next generation of Smart Growth and as we follow Governor Hogan’s directive to prepare a new state development plan.

  1. A new approach to Smart Growth is needed to address the demand for housing that is affordable for various income levels. The Maryland Department of Planning understands that housing affordability is a multilayered and difficult challenge facing our society, and that a successful approach requires new ideas and strong partnerships. We are looking for partners in this vital effort.
  2. Smart Growth must include regional strategies encouraging collaboration within the state and with neighboring states. It is important to assist with collaboration between municipalities and counties. We also need to consider collaboration between urban, suburban and rural areas – recognizing their unique charm and opportunities – but also their problems and challenges.
  3. The next generation of Smart Growth should be applied regionally with nuance and distinction best suited to each type of community. A state as diverse as Maryland cannot take a “one size fits all” approach to Smart Growth. Growth issues are unique, even within regions.  We will strive to avoid the unintended consequences of Smart Growth principles that have deflected growth and jobs or have otherwise been counterproductive. We must consider both the effect of the built environment on nature as well as the effect of nature on the built environment as we plan for a resilient future.
  4. Smart Growth must embrace the development of and support for the next generation of infrastructure and technology. Technology changes, we need to embrace these changes and consider how we support them in planning. We must plan for the innovations in communications, construction, commerce and transportation that will change the way we interact. We also need to consider changing land patterns as a result of the shared economy, i.e. ridesharing and home sharing.

Smart Growth, as intended, works best when jurisdictions can access the resources, training, and capacity building to make it both relevant locally and beneficial statewide. These resources include: technical assistance, funding, training, data and information.

The Maryland Department of Planning will be working to weave these resources, among others, into A Better Maryland and make them accessible, to advance the next generation of Smart Growth.

A Better Maryland will preserve and enhance the foundation of Smart Growth and aim to build a comprehensive strategy with renewed attention to regionalism, housing, infrastructure, and collaboration.