He said the plan — along with other recent policy changes and pending initiatives such as the recently approved toll increases on state roadways, a plan to ban septic systems and the governor's plan to ramp up the timeline on stricter pollution regulations for the Chesapeake Bay — amounts to a "war on rural Maryland."

"It will focus all the infrastructure and job growth on only the urban parts of the state," said Pipkin. "Where are the jobs going to come from for my constituents and their kids and grandkids? The governor's making it so expensive to live in rural areas that he's going to drive them into the urban areas. But not everyone in Maryland wants to live in Baltimore City."

Meanwhile, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners plans to host a forum Monday seeking to debunk some of PlanMaryland's assertions in the areas of climate change, wastewater treatment and the environment.

The forum, which is being financed in part by the county, seeks to offer a different perspective, said Rothschild, who organized it.

"They clearly have the ability to coerce us," said Rothschild, who voted to authorize the county to spend $10,000 on the forum. "The state's saying, 'I'll cut off your allowance.' The illusion of self-autonomy is just that — an illusion."

Rothschild was elected during a major shake-up of Carroll County's government, as voters overwhelmingly rejected a board of commissioners' plan to rezone about 4,500 acres of undeveloped land to create office parks.

Rothschild's critics have lashed out against the forum. They dismiss his opposition to PlanMaryland as an obsession with conspiracy theories and complain that taxpayer dollars should not be spent to finance such an event.

One of the panelists scheduled to speak at the forum, identified as "Honorable Lord Christopher Monckton" in a flier advertising the event, has proved especially controversial. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the British House of Lords issued Monckton, who was a science policy adviser to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a letter demanding that he stop falsely claiming to have been a member of the house.

Neil Ridgely, a retired Carroll government employee who worked on sustainability issues, calls Rothschild's ideas "kooky" and criticized the commissioners for spending county funds on speakers like Monckton. He said an initiative such as PlanMaryland would add a level of checks and balances to the system in places like Carroll.

"They're not out to usurp planning authority from the counties," said Ridgely. "Some people are trying to paint that dark, onerous picture."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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