PlanMaryland would allow state officials to dictate land-use decisions

On Nov. 9, a new centralized planning strategy was presented to Gov. Martin O'Malley by the Maryland Department of Planning.

Its title is PlanMaryland, and its impact on our local neighborhoods, municipalities and counties will be quite large.

However, most Marylanders know very little about this plan, or its goals.

PlanMaryland is based on the Land Use Act of 1974 which, as interpreted, allows for the Department of Planning to implement far-reaching controls on planning and development without having to go through the General Assembly for approval.

PlanMaryland, on the surface seems well intentioned. It claims to promote economic development while helping our environment.

But the devil is in the details; PlanMaryland arrogantly asserts that local planning is not capable of seeing the big picture, and empowers unelected bureaucrats to overrule local, elected county governments on decisions relating to county development, transportation and infrastructure.

While it is appropriate for the state to have a lot of input in planning, this plan would set a bad precedent, and violates the important principle of local control over zoning.

I strongly disagree with PlanMaryland and the O'Malley administration in this regard. At this summer's Maryland Association of Counties Conference, Gov. O'Malley asserted that, "Counties can still make stupid mistakes (as they relate to planning), but the state will no longer pay for them."

In other words, the state knows best. That's a common sentiment that I hear in Annapolis on many issues — and it's badly flawed.

Worst of all, many of the premises in the plan are completely wrong — including the suggestion that urban, dense development is better than spread-out development for air quality, water quality and the environment.

That is highly suspect, as anyone who has lived in a large city can attest to. PlanMaryland is also anti-septic systems — despite the fact that Maryland septic systems contribute less than 3 percent of the nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.

To put it simply, PlanMaryland's strategy is a way the state and its unelected bureaucrats can forcibly change the way that Marylander's live day-to-day by using regulations — like a ban on septic systems — and threatening to withhold funding.

It would really hurt our farmers and other agriculture producers through devaluing their land.

If you have concerns about this issue or would like to give your input, I would encourage you to call Gov. O'Malley's office at 800-811-8336 and the Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Richard Hall, at 877-767-6272.

As always, I am glad to discuss this issue or any other that is of concern to you. Feel free to contact me at justin.ready@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3070.

Justin Ready

Westminster

The writer represents District 5A in the Maryland House of Delegates.