Hogan announces new statewide development plan at Maryland Association of Counties conference

Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new effort Saturday for a statewide plan to guide growth and development across Maryland.

The plan, Hogan said, will “finally put local planning authority back in the hands of local government, where it belongs.”

Speaking at the close of the Maryland Association of Counties conference, Hogan’s announcement drew hearty applause from an audience filled with local officials and members of his Cabinet.

Hogan said he often hears complaints from local government officials about the state’s current effort, a document called Plan Maryland that dates to the administration of former Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Local elected officials have repeatedly asked for a better plan that better reflects the current needs of our state,” Hogan said.

The Republican governor said the new plan will “improve coordination between state agencies and local government.” He said it will balance “thoughtful” growth and economic development while conserving natural resources.

Hogan offered few details of how the new process would work.

He said the state’s Department of Planning, the Sustainable Growth Commission and his administration’s “smart growth Cabinet” will work with the Maryland Association of Counties on the new plan.

Hogan is launching the effort at a time when the leadership of his Department of Planning is in uncertain.

Acting Planning Secretary Wendi Peters is one of two Hogan officials caught in a tussle between the governor and the General Assembly.

Peters and acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader have not been approved by the state Senate, which is required for Cabinet secretaries.

After the General Assembly session ended in April without Peters and Schrader winning confirmation, Hogan reappointed both. The General Assembly put language in this year’s budget saying unconfirmed nominees who were renominated — effectively, Peters and Schrader — could not be paid. Peters and Schrader have worked unpaid since July 1 and are challenging the General Assembly action in court.

The executive order issued by Hogan on Saturday set out broad goals for the new plan, and said it should be complete by July 1, 2019 — a date that is past the end of Hogan’s current term as governor. He’s up for re-election in 2018.

Comprehensive plans are a tool that governments use to guide where new development and redevelopment occur. They often declare which areas are targeted for growth and which areas are targeted for preservation. The state plan would not supplant local plans, Hogan’s executive order said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, said Hogan hadn’t consulted with him or the association’s board on this new plan.

“This is the first that any of us have heard about it. He certainly hasn’t consulted with me about this ahead of time. He said he was going to involve local officials, but this is the first we’re hearing about it,” said Kamenetz, a Democrat who is considering a run for governor next year.

pwood@baltsun.com

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