Smart Growth Not Smartly Managed

The Maryland Smart Growth law, that 10 year old abomination that legally abolished market forces and mindful legislation on the part of the General Assembly has been largely neglected by the govnerment according to the Baltimore Sun.

It’s nearly impossible to tell how effective Maryland’s 10-year-old Smart Growth law has been at curbing sprawl because state agencies haven’t kept track of where their spending goes, as the law requires, a new study finds.

The study, to be published today by the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, says that officials through two administrations did a poor job of monitoring whether state funds for building roads, sewers and other public improvements were spent in designated growth areas, as the law intended.

“The Glendening administration tried to do it but didn’t succeed,” said Gerrit Knaap, director of the research center. “And then Ehrlich dropped it.”

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Knaap, a co-author of the study, says that failure to monitor spending has undermined the growth-management law adopted in 1997, pushed through by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The law aims to use state funding to encourage development in and around existing communities. It required local governments to designate areas already served by public water and sewer as growth zones, and said state spending would be focused in these “priority funding areas.”

Smart Growth, while it sounds really nice, was and is simply a way for the legislatures and the localities, specifically the County Zoning Boards, to ignore their responsibilities, instead foisting responsiblity with the Governor’s Administration.

The law hamstrings the local zoning boards by putting responsiblity for determining priorty spending on infrastructure with the governor’s office instead of with the local agencies. The result is that teh Governor’s office cannot contain sprawl nor manage priority spending, because it is not close enough to the problem. The State House is a notoriously bad place to manage growth and development for anything more than a three mile radius from the state house.

Humorously, Smart Growth required the Office of Smart Growth account for its spending, but there are very few mandates on other office that require and annual reporting of how and where its funds are spent.

I just can’t imagine why we have a budget deficit!

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