It’s been more than 10 years since former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening — president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute here at Smart Growth America — enacted his historic smart growth initiatives and threw Maryland into the national spotlight. After a recent Washington Post article assessing the impact of the smart growth laws (with a wildly inaccurate headline, based on the actual study’s findings), Governor Glendening responded with a letter pointing out the benefits of the smart growth program, and how Maryland could continue to improve it:
The Nov. 2 Metro article “Study calls Md. smart growth a flop” leads to an inescapable conclusion: We in Maryland need to do more — more to create walkable neighborhoods, more to give people transportation choices, more to save tax money and more to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
But the misleading headline did a disservice. What the study really found is that the policies I instituted as governor haven’t been enough. It’s true: Maryland’s work is not done. Our laws and programs should be updated as we learn what works best. But the study doesn’t call the Maryland programs a “flop.”
Despite the need to improve and strengthen the policies, smart growth has done a great deal for Maryland. It placed the social services building right in downtown Easton and aided the University of Maryland’s efforts to revitalize Hagerstown. It permanently preserved 400,000 acres. And it helped revitalize places such as Silver Spring, Hyattsville and Baltimore, adding thousands of homes to transit-accessible neighborhoods. Because the study looked only at single-family homes, it couldn’t report any of these benefits.
Today, it’s more important than ever that government policies don’t promote sprawl but instead help communities meet the demand for more convenient, affordable neighborhoods. And improving the smart-growth program should be a key part of Maryland’s plans.
Richard Hall, the Maryland secretary of planning, writes that Maryland is working hard to fully realize Governor Glendening’s plans. “No doubt we have smart-growth challenges that we need to address together,” he said. “We are developing a State Growth Plan for this purpose. Maryland’s commitment to, and innovation in, smart growth remain strong.”