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As Long as We Remember...

October 4, 2010

Does O'Malley have a septic problem?

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

For those who are fans of country living, including the farming community, it may be worthwhile to keep a close eye on what our governor is up to with his vision to put his stamp on Smart Growth. The O’Malley version is called PlanMaryland (


What is it exactly? Well, as described on its beautifully formatted website, it is a program “to create a better and more sustainable future for Maryland. The state legislature created the authority for such a plan in the 1970s, but a broader recognition of the many costs of unsustainable land use has grown in recent years. This new planning process commenced with listening sessions that the Maryland Department of Planning held in 2008 and will culminate with a State Growth Plan proposal in 2011.”


The program has established Twelve Planning Visions ( They are:


Quality of Life and Sustainability: A high quality of life is achieved through universal stewardship of the land, water, and air resulting in sustainable communities and protection of the environment.


Public Participation: Citizens are active partners in the planning and implementation of community initiatives and are sensitive to their responsibilities in achieving community goals.


Growth Areas: Growth is concentrated in existing population and business centers, growth areas adjacent to these centers, or strategically selected new centers.


Community Design: Compact, mixed-use, walkable design consistent with existing community character and located near available or planned transit options is encouraged to ensure efficient use of land and transportation resources and preservation and enhancement of natural systems, open spaces, recreational areas, and historical, cultural, and archeological resources.


Infrastructure: Growth areas have the water resources and infrastructure to accommodate population and business expansion in an orderly, efficient, and environmentally sustainable manner.


Transportation: A well maintained, multi-modal transportation system facilitates the safe, convenient, affordable, and efficient movement of people, goods, and services within and between population and business centers.


Housing: A range of housing densities, types, and sizes provides residential options for citizens of all ages and incomes.


Economic Development: Economic development and natural resource-based businesses that promote employment opportunities for all income levels within the capacity of the state’s natural resources, public services, and public facilities are encouraged.


Environmental Protection: Land and water resources, including the Chesapeake and coastal bays, are carefully managed to restore and maintain healthy air and water, natural systems, and living resources.


Resource Conservation: Waterways, forests, agricultural areas, open space, natural systems, and scenic areas are conserved;


Stewardship: Government, business entities, and residents are responsible for the creation of sustainable communities by collaborating to balance efficient growth with resource protection; and


Implementation: Strategies, policies, programs, and funding for growth and development, resource conservation, infrastructure, and transportation are integrated across the local, regional, state, and interstate levels to achieve these Visions.


I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a few of our local politicians who have attended a number of the planning meetings on this program. They have been reading between the lines of such things like: “Growth is concentrated in existing population and business centers … sustainable communities and protection of the environment … to balance efficient growth with resource protection.”


Combined with the fact that the Maryland Department of the Environment has made it reasonably clear that it is not been a big fan of private septic and sewage systems, there is a fear that over a deliberate period of time the idea of having a dream home in the country or a building lot for the child of a farmer could move those ideas to the “Land that Time Forgot.”


Bottom line is that such an action could hurt the values of rural lots and real estate rendering some parcels very hard or impossible to develop.


All we have to do is look at how our state agencies that focus land use planning, land preservation, natural resources, and environmental protection have slowly but surely tightened the screws on the use of agricultural land and other open land.


Now, many of these polices have been a good thing, but just speak to members of the agricultural community anywhere in the state and anyone who has experienced the incredible hurdles associated with just clearing a stand of trees for the construction of a house or outbuildings. On top of that the related costs and time delays have become incredibly expensive.


While it has not been stated outright by those who have masterfully orchestrated the progress of PlanMaryland, I say, keep your eyes open and beware if you are one those who desire to make use of your property as good land stewards, but at the same time enjoy the rights that ownership should provide.


Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for The MacRo Report Blog.


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