The Failures of "Smart Growth" in Maryland

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Smart growth — the anti-sprawl urban planning theory that encourages transit-oriented development, walkable city centers, and mixed-use development — sounds like, well, an intelligent idea. No wonder our governor is a proponent. But despite the best efforts of O’Malley and other interested parties, Maryland experts think our state’s potential for smart growth is weak, and being threatened from many sides.

The University of Maryland surveyed planners, developers, and land-use advocates — all stakeholders in the growth of our region. For one, the state has designated special areas — Priority Funding Areas, or PFAs — for smart growth development. But UM’s survey found that the planners and developers preferred to work outside of these PFAs, largely because of the various regulations and ordinances they have to follow.

As a result, the current system “is barely moving the needle on most widely accepted measures of smart growth,” says Gerrit Knaap, head of the university’s National Center for Smart Growth. Knaap’s report argues for more flexibility in the system.

What do you think is the best way for Maryland to grow?



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  1. Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of using farmland to build our neo-traditional neighborhoods, we could build new communities in the areas now choked with block after block of abandoned, lead paint & asbestos ridden houses. Why can’t the powers that be get the political will and allow developers to do for NE Baltimore City what they did in Columbia back in the 60’s? Because the politics get in the way. Maryland doesn’t let business do business. We could build inexpensive, well thought out communities, grocery stores and schools within the city limits. There is a high demand for the limited residential housing the downtown area currently has, and it makes so much more sense to invest in “in-fill” development than sprawl. But the taxes and onerous regulations make this kind of creative development impossible.

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