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August 23, 2011

Invasive State Control of Growth Part 1

Farrell Keough

For the next few days, we will review a new proposal from the O’Malley’s Administration entitled PlanMaryland. This plan has far-reaching consequences and should be thoroughly reviewed before any type of implementation.


A more complete analysis of this proposal will be available at We The People of Maryland once final reviews of the draft are completed. For now, this will encompass an Executive Overview of the proposal.


Based upon a triad of perspectives, (land planning, government control, and environmental issues) a proposal entitled PlanMaryland has been presented for public review. In an attempt to review it, seven discrete areas of analysis were teased out from the document. Each area had great difficulty undergoing such scrutiny.


The areas reviewed include Unmanaged Development, Smart Growth, State will wrest complete control, Global Warming/Climate Change, Property Rights, State Controlled Market, and finally, Transportation. A short recap will be made for each follow up.


We begin with:


Unmanaged Development


As noted in the Plan:


Local jurisdictions in Maryland have had the authority to write comprehensive land use plans and enact zoning codes since the 1920’s. Planning since then has evolved from the sole purview of the localities to a small State coordinating committee to a full cabinet-level department.1


The justification for extracting control from local government and local populations to un-elected and often unaccountable State agencies is justified throughout the Plan based upon unmanaged and out-of-control growth. In short, a crisis scenario has been generated throughout this document. In fact, this is a false dichotomy. While rampant development has been the mantra throughout our state and nation, the fact is that just over 5% of our nation’s land has been developed. In Maryland, over 80% of our land is still undeveloped.


[A]fter nearly 400 years of unmanaged development and rabbit-like population growth, somewhere between 3.4 percent and 5.2 percent of land in the continental United States has been consumed…2


With such a close proximity to our nation’s capital, one would expect the State of Maryland to be virtually bereft of undeveloped land. Yet, the facts show a very different reality. Review of this plan must be dependent upon facts rather than ideology, a generated perception based upon emotion, or anecdotal evidence.


Smart Growth


One of the common denominators promoted in this proposal is a relocation of the public toward urban areas. Yet, PlanMaryland data finds the public prefers suburban areas. Even outside studies verify that the general public, (ages ranging from the 30’s to retirement) prefer to live in suburbs and outlying areas.


Virtually every survey of opinion, including a 2004 poll co-sponsored by Smart Growth America, a group dedicated to promoting urban density, found that roughly 13% of Americans prefer to live in an urban environment while 33% prefer suburbs, and another 18% like exurbs. These patterns have been fairly consistent over the last several decades.3


Despite their own findings, PlanMaryland continues to promote the ideologies and lifestyles dominated by the Smart Growth perspectives. Much of the justification for these state driven land-use policies are derived from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model Phase 5.3. For instance, restrictions on property development are often justified by noting savings to both the public and environment.


The spread of dispersed low-density residential development and the associated costs to the public and the environment must be minimized.4


For example, some justifications on cost use new requirements on property owners to connect to local wastewater treatment plants, restricting the number of homes a farmer may build for his children, or requiring expensive septic systems for areas not shown to affect water bodies. Hence, the proposed savings are based upon new requirements which have not yet been implemented – this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.


Another area of justification is environmental stewardship. While the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model originally purported that septic systems were a major contributor to the water quality degradation, the data used in that analysis has been discarded. Septic data for the new modeling analysis will be derived as opposed to actual in situ data as measured in the water bodies.


These kinds of assumptions, untested scenarios, cost savings based upon ostensible propositions, and regulatory enforcement counter to well-established public desire makes the concepts behind Smart Growth suspect at best.


[Editor’s Note: Mr. Keough’s analysis of this plan will continue each day through Friday.]


1 Draft PlanMaryland p.1-6


2 Ronald D. Utt, “Will Sprawl Gobble Up America’s Land? Federal Data Reveal Development’s Trivial Impact,” Backgrounder 1556, Heritage Foundation, March 30, 2002,


3 Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of the Back-to-the-City Migration,” By Joel Kotkin, July 6, 2010


4 Executive Summary p.4


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