- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maryland planning officials on Monday will formally submit a proposed statewide planning initiative to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, will receive PlanMaryland, a development initiative intended to limit sprawl and protect the environment by encouraging development in existing population centers rather than rural areas.

Rural lawmakers and many county officials have heavily criticized the plan, saying it will allow the state to intrude upon local planning procedures and stunt rural development.

Planning officials say it is simply a set of recommendations and does not include mandates.

“I think the process was good,” said Andrew Ratner, a Maryland Department of Planning spokesman. “We set out four years ago to have an open and transparent process.”

A state law passed in 1974 allows the governor’s administration to enact a land-use plan without approval by the General Assembly. Officials accepted public comment on PlanMaryland during a six-month period that ended last month.

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, Cecil Republican, has been one of the plan’s harshest critics and attended a Senate committee briefing last week in which planning officials addressed concerns over the initiative.

Mr. Ratner said MDP’s final plan differs notably from previous versions by allowing local governments to provide input to the state’s Smart Growth Subcabinet, which designates preferred growth areas in the state.

O'Malley spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said the plan is far from being implemented and that the governor receiving it is only the beginning of a months-long process.

She said the plan will also be reviewed by Secretary of State John P. McDonough and will be the subject of more public hearings.

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