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Governor Martin O’Malley recently unveiled six bills that are the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s Smart, Green and Growing 2009 legislative agenda. Two of these bills build on recommendations made in a recent report of the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development in Maryland called “Where Do We Grow from Here?” If passed, they will improve local government comprehensive plans and assure that the plans are implemented.
State statutes articulate “visions” for Maryland’s future that inform local government comprehensive plans and guide State policy and decisions. Originally adopted in 1992, these visions grew out of concern for the Chesapeake Bay. The Task Force recommended broadening the visions to encompass more aspects of sustainable development, and Governor O’Malley has proposed a bill to adopt the 12 visions presented by the Task Force. The new visions include principles to guide growth and development in Maryland in areas like community design, infrastructure, transportation, housing, economic development, environmental protection, resource conservation, and stewardship. The visions recognize the importance of public participation, as well as the need to actually implement the visions.
Implementing Comprehensive Plans
The Task Force found that the comprehensive plan is widely viewed as the most valuable tool for guiding development in a jurisdiction. Although it is a challenge to develop a comprehensive plan that synthesizes the various required elements into a coherent whole, a good plan charts a general course for a jurisdiction’s growth. It sets out a consensus view of the future development of the jurisdiction, based on a process involving numerous stakeholders and the public. The long-term planning horizon reduces uncertainty and facilitates the coordination of development with the necessary infrastructure. The Task Force concluded that the people of Maryland are best served if all land use decisions conform to the overall comprehensive plan in both the location and timing of development.
A majority of the members of the Task Force concluded that the overall effect of a recent opinion of the Court of Appeals, Trail, et al. v. Terrapin Run, LLC, et al. (2008), was to weaken the link between the comprehensive plan and its implementation in zoning ordinances and other local laws and regulations. The Task Force therefore recommended that State law be amended to strengthen the existing requirement that counties and municipalities implement the comprehensive plans they adopt. The Governor proposed a bill to accomplish this goal.
This article has been edited since publication.