By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun
9:24 PM EDT, November 1, 2011
A panel of experts on environmental and growth issues offered harsh criticism Monday of Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed statewide smart-growth strategy at a forum attended by more than 100 people from some of the most rural parts of the state.
Speakers accused state officials of inflating statistics and muddying facts to better make a case for PlanMaryland, which would designate targeted growth areas.
George Frigon, an environmental consultant and wasterwater treatment expert, criticized PlanMaryland for what he said was a false assumption that "people who live on two acres poop more than people who live in apartments."
State officials say PlanMaryland, which limits state funds for development that does not fall within the guidelines for preventing sprawl, will save about $1.5 billion annually in infrastructure costs.
But some politicians from rural areas say the plan will hurt local economies and dilute the power of localities to make decisions on planning and zoning issues.
Richard Hall, the state secretary of the Department of Planning, attended the forum and said some of the criticism seemed based more on idealogy and politics.
"I didn't come here to debate climate change … " he said. "I'm sure people can find something in the plan [such as] data errors. We're willing to see if it's a math issue, or a policy debate masking itself as a math issue."
Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, who organized the forum and said that the state plan was based on an "United Nations, globalist agenda," told the audience that PlanMaryland "basically constitutes theft of the property rights established in the Constitution."
He said about 19 counties were represented at the forum. Carroll County spent about $10,000 to finance the forum, and another $7,000 was raised in donations. He dismissed concerns about the use of county funds for such an event.
"I don't hear anyone in the press asking Martin O'Malley how much he spent preparing and marketing the plan. I assure you it's probably over a million dollars."