State “Plan Maryland” Mandate Could Halt Cecil County Growth
A new state âPlan Marylandâ mandate could halt growth and business development in Cecil County, even in areas designated as a âgrowth corridorâ under the 2010 county comprehensive plan, Cecil County Commissioners were told Tuesday.
The new state mandate, proposed in late April and awaiting a signature later in the year by Governor Martin OâMalley, provides little if any opportunities for revision and severely restricts even local towns from development. Especially in rural areas like Cecil County, the new state plan could prevent any growth or economic development outside narrowly defined growth areas in local town limits.
County Planning Director Eric Sennstrom used over-the-top rhetoric to convey just how seriously the county could be impacted by the proposal. He likened it to historic land and planning decisions, such as the Stalinist âcollectivizationâ efforts in the former Soviet Union and the Nazis attacks on Jewish ghettos prior to World War II.
He said the new state plan would have âcatastrophic, if not devastating resultsâ for property values in the county, with the potential for farmers to become âpoverty-stricken serfs of the state.â Sennstrom pointed out that even farms located in or near county-designated growth areas could be prevented from selling lands for profit and even the long-discussed but not implemented Transfer of Development Rights program could be killed in its tracks by the new state proposal.
County planning officials pointed out a âglaringâ omission from the state plan: the long proposed, but long-stalled, re-development of the Bainbridge former naval training facility in Port Deposit. The new state plan omits that major re-development project from permissible development that could receive state funds or be allowed under the new planning edicts from Annapolis. The county would have to petition the state to insert Bainbridge into the overall plan, with no assurances that the long-standing priority would be acknowledged by the state.
Cecil County Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) has been sounding the alarm about the âPlan Marylandâ agenda for more than a month, since it was first brought to light at a meeting of Upper Shore officials in Chestertown. âThere is a groundswell of opposition around the state,â she told fellow commissioners on Tuesday. âItâs Draconian, itâs dictatorial,â she said of the state plan.
Moore is a board member of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) and said the group would meet in Howard County on June 23 to discuss the âPlan Marylandâ proposals with state officials.
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said the state proposal represented a âfundamental shiftâ away from local planning decisions and control to a âstate overrideâ of local priorities. He said the planâs maps would mean âno growth, none, zeroâ even in the long-established I-95/Route 40 âgrowth corridorâ set by the countyâs comprehensive plan. To nervous laughter from the county employees in the room, Hodge declared that the state proposal meant that the county might as well fire all its planning staff and just let the state take over total control of local planning decisions.
The 188-page document, released April 28, is here:
According to a brief analysis by the Maryland Association of Counties, in many counties, the newly designated âgreen printâ areas that would receive state planning and funding priority for development are significantly smaller than the towns or jurisdictions currently designated as âpreferred funding areasâ or PFAs. Indeed, the new areas cover just 27 percent of the areas currently covered by PFAs, according to state documents and a MACO analysis.
A MACO blog noted that the entire process of the Plan Maryland initiative is not collaborative and is based on purely administrative, unilateral decisions: âThis process has not arisen from a specific statutory mandate â there was no bill in the General Assembly to debate the merits of this approach â rather, the effort has largely been administrative, following the general charge in Maryland law enabling a state growth plan.â
In an Op-Ed article published in The Baltimore Sun, written by state Planning Secretary Richard Eberhardt Hallâ[ link is here: http://plan.maryland.gov/PDF/media/smart-growth-Sun042911.pdf
the state planning official cited a 1974 law that allows creation of a statewide plan and the 1997 âsmart growthâ law as justification for the new initiative. He said that despite âsmart growthâ priorities, âmore than three-quarters of residential growthâ has occurred outside designated towns and preferred development areas. He concluded that âthe state should refrain from investing in the proliferation of sprawl because of its long-term costs, both financially and environmentally.â
Cecil County Commissioners reviewed maps on Tuesday that showed that development would be all but banned by the state outside the current limits of the countyâs towns, but even current town limits would be circumscribed to even smaller areas for permitted growth.
In Cecil County, the designated âgrowth corridorâ in the I95/Route 40 area expands outside local town limits, with the result that, under the new âPlan Marylandâ mandate, longstanding plans to provide water, sewer and natural gas services to encourage business and industrial growth in that area would be banned under the new state plan.
There will be a public information meeting on the âPlan Marylandâ mandate on Wednesday, June 8, at Harford Community College, from 5-8 P.M. However, two past meetings in May, in Salisbury and Chestertown, showed the state was not accepting public comment but only showing maps and providing âinformationâ to local residents at such meetings.
Cecil County officials are urging local residents to protest the new âPlan Marylandâ edicts by posting online and email comments at the state Planning Department website: