- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Incoming Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to take a largely different approach than his predecessor on growth in Maryland.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, will likely push for more mass transit and state control over where new houses go for the thousands expected to move to Maryland for the hot job market and military base realignment. Residents also can expect the revival of the concept of Smart Growth, popularized by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, also a Democrat.

Mr. Glendening favored the concept, which calls for government to use resources to steer growth to urban areas and away from rural vistas. However, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, took a different approach upon taking office four years ago.

Mr. Ehrlich, who in November lost in his re-election bid, dismantled the Cabinet-level Office of Smart Growth started by Mr. Glendening. He said the move would spread the concept to all state agencies, but critics said it showed a reluctance to implement Smart Growth ideas.

“I feel like Smart Growth was mostly buried under the Ehrlich administration,” said Delegate William A. Bronrott, Montgomery County Democrat. “The Smart Growth flag was flying high under Glendening, then it was lowered to half-mast under Ehrlich.”

Mr. O’Malley plans to revive the office and create another to plan for military growth, spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

Mr. O’Malley also plans to look into more mass transit, including the possibility of extending the D.C. area subway system to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Mr. Abbruzzese said.

More state oversight of local planning decisions also can be expected.

“It’s important that the state play a role with local jurisdictions in planning for growth,” Mr. Abbruzzese said.

How that state-local partnership works has long been a source of tension.

Mr. Ehrlich’s critics point to the case of a proposed subdivision including thousands of homes near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County. State officials initially said they wouldn’t intervene in the development. Then, last year they proposed buying most of the land for $10.4 million. Critics said the money could have been saved had the state originally denied permission for the project.

“The Ehrlich administration thought Smart Growth was a Glendening initiative, therefore, they were fairly hostile to continuing the momentum we had,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of the 1000 Friends of Maryland land-conservation group.

Mrs. Schmidt-Perkins said the administration’s perceived unwillingness to intervene in local planning decisions to stop sprawl played a role in Mr. Ehrlich’s loss to Mr. O’Malley.

“The citizens of this state want our open spaces protected much better,” she said.

The national advocacy group Smart Growth America, which includes Mr. Glendening as a member, did not criticize Mr. Ehrlich. But spokesman David Goldberg said little progress was made during the Ehrlich administration.

Republicans are not opposed to the concept of Smart Growth, but incoming House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert County Republican, said party lawmakers in rural areas are wary of plans that would take away dollars from rural road projects.

“Transportation funding will have a great impact on development and growth,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “We’ve had a very balanced transport program over the last four years that paid attention to both mass transit and the needs of rural areas and the roads and bridges we need.”

Mr. Abbruzzese said the new emphasis on Smart Growth will not result in less money for road construction.

“The challenges that we have regarding growth are also challenges we have regarding transportation,” he said. “You can’t address one without the other.”

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