The State Planning Department was seeking input on a new state development plan.
Frederick, Md, (KM). Maryland Planning Department officials were in Frederick on Tuesday to take input from elected leaders and other citizens on what to include in the new “Better Maryland” plan. It replaces the current plan which was adopted a few years ago.
They told the County Council this new document will not interfere with their local authority to make planning decisions. “It by no means can be used to deny any state permits or state funding. It cannot supersede any local planning and zoning authority. It doesn’t supersede any local ordinances. It can’t mandate any actions by local governments along the way,” said Chuck Boyd, the Director of Planning Coordination for the Maryland Department of Planning.
Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order of January 1st, 2018 calling on the Planning Department to prepare a revised state development plan. The order requires that the plan be organized to enrich the lives of Marylanders; use smart growth principles; grow responsibly; and protect Maryland’s resources. It also establishes objectives for growing responsibly: supporting existing communities; creating quality spaces; coordinating state investments; preserving natural resources; and preserving the state’s cultural, historical and heritage resources.
On the final two items, Councilman Jerry Donald asked about preserving the state’s cultural and natural resources. “We struggle with that sometimes in Frederick County to balance between what we’re trying to preserve and individual rights to their property,” he said.
Wendi Peters, the Special Secretary of Smart Growth, said other communities in the state are dealing with that issue. “Department of Planning provides a lot of technical assistance in that regard,” she said. “And one of things that they put together is a transfer of development rights program. And there are number of other tools that we hope to develop as jurisdictions continue to struggle with that issue as part of this plan.”
Councilman Kirby Delauter brought up the issue of affordable housing, and whether there could be an easing of fees and regulations which add to the cost of housing. “We kind of counter that affordable housing with all of the added regulation that goes on top of that. So do you have any input on that,” he asked.
“Other jurisdictions are faced with similar problems, and we’re trying to work through some of that,” Peters Responded. “It’s not that we’re not going to answer your question today. We’re really in the process of taking it all in.”
But Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater continued to bring up the affordable housing, which said is the biggest issue. “Our millennial population is growing faster than the state average. Our senior population is growing faster than the state average,” she said. “Both groups that are seeking a diverse housing stock which we are not doing a great job of right now.
She also said health issues need to be addressed in the state plan. “Looking at our mental health crisis that we’re having and the severe lack of resources to respond to mental health issues and the opioid epidemic,” said Fitzwater. “To me, if the goal of the plan is to promote the general welfare and prosperity of Marylanders, things like that have to be part of the plan.”
The Planning Department says the final “Better Maryland” plan should be completed and ready to present to the Governor by July 1st, 2019.
By Kevin McManus