Maryland's Smart Growth Program

Our Ohio Smart Growth Agenda calls for Ohio to adopt thekind of program that Maryland passed recently. Here's how the Maryland program works.

Led by Governor Parris Glendening, Maryland has realized that it can't afford another 25 years of growth like the last 25. Existing cities and towns can't take the losses of outmigration. The state can't afford to keep expanding roads and other infrastructure. The farm economy and the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay can't survive the continued paving of the countryside.

So Maryland has decided to stop subsidizing sprawl. Instead of serving every new subdivision out in the cornfields, the state will direct its funding and programs to improve the quality of life in existing communities. It's a simple, common-sense ideaa vote for sound maintenance, fiscal prudence and long-term sustainability

The program

Called the "Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative," Maryland's program is a comprehensive investment and land-use strategy to slow sprawl that will go into effect in late 1998. The centerpiece of the plan is a law that directs state agencies to invest public funds for economic development in existing cities and towns, and to deny most allocations that encourage suburban sprawl.

The bulk of state economic development spending is to be made in "Priority Funding Areas." These include every existing city and town in the state, plus designated places where local governments and the state anticipate growth and have built or are planning to build water and sewer systems.

Local governments are required to provide the state Planning Office with maps that show the precise boundaries of the communities, rural villages, and previously developed regions that constitute their Priority Funding Areas. The Office of Planning is responsible for making this information available to other state agencies.

Public investments covered by the law include, but are not limited to: new roads, water and sewer systems, economic development grants, housing grants, leasing of state office space, and construction of new state office buildings, schools, government buildings, factories, retail stores, malls, and civic centers. Exceptions for projects outside Priority Funding Areas include those that protect public health or involve federal funds that cannot be constrained by state law.

Rebuilding neighborhoods

The Maryland initiative includes specific policies for the redevelopment of cities and neighborhoods:

  • A new school construction funding policy that encourages modernization and expansion of existing schools and discourages building new schools in outlying areas.
  • Tax credits to business owners who create at least 25 new full-time jobs in cities, towns, and other areas that already have been developed.
  • A fund of $200 million in below-market-rate mortgages to encourage home buying in urban neighborhoods.
  • A $300,000 state mortgage program that provides grants of at least $3,000 to families that purchase homes in Priority Funding Areas near their place of work.
  • Income tax credits equal to 15 percent of the cost of rehabilitating historic structures.
  • A directive to invest state economic development funds in jobs, plant modernizations, new businesses, and other activities in Priority Funding Areas.
  • New health standards and loans, grants, and property tax credits to speed the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated brownfield sites in urban areas.

Preserving farmland and natural areas

The initiative also:

  • Directs the Maryland Department of Transportation to work more closely with local governments in planning and paying for road improvements in cities and towns, and to discourage building new roads in undeveloped areas.
  • Prevents state agencies from investing public dollars in most construction planned for rural regions and natural areas.
  • Establishes up to $254 million in general obligation bonds and state appropriations to buy land and purchase development rights in order to conserve 200,000 acres of farmland and open space by 2011.

In short, the Maryland program is not a regulatory program that prohibits development. Rather it is an incentive program that harnesses the power of state investment to promote development in desirable locations.



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Maryland Smart Growth contacts

State of Maryland
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
1000 Friends of Maryland


It just makes sense. People understand we cannot go on with sprawl eating up every acre of farmland and forest land. We cannot go on with programs that constantly cause deterioration in central cities and inner suburbs. We cannot keep using public funds to promote sprawl.
Maryland Governor Parris Glendening

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