Two advocacy groups said yesterday that Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative is a fine idea, but it won't mean a thing if county governments don't follow through and the state doesn't spend more on public transit.
While most county governments have drafted plans that designate Smart Growth areas, they aren't directing growth into those areas, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1,000 Friends of Maryland.
The state also must spend more on public transit, and pedestrian and bicycle projects, the groups said in a report released at a national Smart Growth conference at the Pratt central library.
"If we hope to improve sprawl, we must improve Smart Growth now," said Theresa Pierno, executive director of the foundaton's Maryland office.
Under Smart Growth, an attempt to prevent sprawling suburban development that was adopted by the General Assembly in 1997, the state does not provide money for roads, schools and sewers outside areas a county has designated for growth.
The report singled out booming Charles and St. Mary's counties for allowing a large amount of development outside Smart Growth areas on 3-acre lots.
Those counties must direct development into the designated areas to make efficient use of the land, said Dru Schmidt Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland.
Steven T. Magoon, director of planning in Charles, said the county has been able to direct development into its Smart Growth areas with construction of sewer lines.
"There are some places that years ago got water and sewer without benefit of the knowledge we have today," he said. "Even though the area available for development is large, it's only 20 percent of the land in the county. I don't know of any other county that can say that."
State agencies were criticized in the report for not following Glendening's orders to concentrate on downtown revitalization projects rather than those in rural areas when they dole out state money.
"Unfortunately, the agencies have not developed processes and guidelines to implement the order completely," said Pierno, adding that transit projects should be a priority.
Glendening agreed with most of the recommendations in a speech to the conference that outlined additional Smart Growth legislation he plans to introduce in the General Assembly session that opens in January.
One task force is preparing revamped building codes that would make redevelopment in older communities such as Frederick and Annapolis easier, the governor said. Another is looking at new regulations for areas where failing septic systems may threaten drinking water supplies.
In addition, Glendening plans to put more money for rural land preservation and transit projects in his next budget. Most of the highway money will be for improvement and maintenance on existing roads, he said.