The best laid plans of mice and men…

PlanMaryland ( appears to be the next stage of smart growth planning in Maryland. When the first draft was announced earlier this year, you can imagine that some were thrilled and some, well, not so much.

Articles and blogs abound heaping praise, while some are expressing criticism and concerns about the role of government. Aaron Davis’ August 19th Washington Post Article (O’Malley, Md. counties begin battle over development plan) frames the debate and expresses the concerns of some that include “central planning” and mandates. While advocates of such a plan say “it’s about time,” critics are saying that the plan is moving “too quickly.”

Ultimately, the plan’s intention appears to be “… a collaborative process between the State and local governments to address critical issues of environmental and fiscal sustainability” while focusing on three main goals: 1) “Concentrate development and redevelopment in communities where there is existing and planned infrastructure”; 2) “Preserve and protect environmentally sensitive and rural lands and resources from the impacts of development”; and 3) “Ensure that a desirable quality of life in Maryland’s communities is sustainable.”

Regardless of what either side says about the plan’s intensions, or anticipates with its implementation; here’s what is stated in the most recent draft of PlanMaryland (which is available at

PlanMaryland intends to: improve the way in which state agencies and local governments work together to accomplish common goals and objectives for growth, development and preservation; help accommodate a projected 1 million additional residents, 500,000 new households and 600,000 new jobs by the year 2035 without sacrificing agricultural and natural resources; stimulate economic development and revitalization in towns, cities and other existing communities that have facilities to support growth; save 300,000+ acres of farmland and forest over the next 25 years; save Maryland an estimated $1.5 billion a year in infrastructure costs during the next 20 years through a smart-growth approach to land use; address the rapid pace of land consumption, which since 1970 has escalated at double the rate of housing growth and triple the rate of population increase.

PlanMaryland is not: a substitute for local comprehensive plans nor will it take away local planning and zoning authority; a top-down approach to force compliance with a statewide land-use plan; a silver bullet that will solve all problems (but is a strategic plan to address issues such as community disinvestment, sprawl development and inefficient use of existing resources); a “one size fits all” approach (PlanMaryland recognizes that different areas of the state have different characteristics, problems, issues and opportunities); a mandate to spend more (if PlanMaryland helps local governments implement their existing comprehensive plans, it will save money by avoiding expenditures for unnecessary infrastructure and other costs).

Robert Burns once said (in a Scottish poem) “The best laid plans of mice and men…go oft awry.” Before implementing a new “vision,” one might ask, “How has smart growth policies impacted growth and development during the last twenty years?” On the exterior, PlanMaryland appears well intentioned to protect environmentally sensitive areas and “ensure” quality of life. However, there’s more at stake than just a “centralized” vision of quality of life through smart growth.

The current revision of PlanMaryland is open for public comments until November 9th. So, if you have an opinion, here’s your chance voice it on the PlanMaryland website.

by Dan Krell
© 2011

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