- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed an executive order Monday directing state agencies to begin implementing a statewide land-development initiative and suggested counties that refuse to comply with its recommendations could lose state funding.

“The consequences, if you will, will primarily be budget consequences,” said Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat.

The governor has said that PlanMaryland is merely a set of recommendations to limit sprawl and protect the environment by encouraging development in existing population centers rather than rural areas.

However, some county officials and rural lawmakers, many of them Republicans, say it will intrude upon local planning procedures and stifle rural development.

Mr. O'Malley acknowledged the plan will carry heavy weight at the state level, and that counties that choose to develop outside its guidelines might have to do so without state dollars.

Maryland officials spent four years crafting PlanMaryland, which is based largely upon the state’s Smart Growth initiative of the 1990s.

Mr. O'Malley also said the state will choose which capital projects to fund based largely on “what promotes Smart Growth versus what promotes sprawl and unsustainable land consumption.”

A state law passed in 1974 allows the governor’s administration to implement such land-use plans without approval from the General Assembly.

While many supporters say the public had ample time to comment on the plan, critics have said they were kept largely out of the process.

Frederick County Commissioner Blaine R. Young said he has opposed the plan on grounds that it could kill development-related jobs in rural counties.

He said he could support PlanMaryland if specific changes are made, but that state officials have shown little interest in local input.

“We’re not just trying to be obstructionists,” said Mr. Young, a Republican. “Rural Maryland just wants to be at the table. We want our concerns to be addressed.”

However, Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson, a Democrat, thinks the plan is not a jobs killer and will in fact yield its greatest benefit to rural counties by protecting waterways and undeveloped areas.

He said rural officials should be pleased with the plan and that many critics misunderstand the plan or are trying to “have it both ways” by generally favoring rural preservation while leaving the door open for possible development.

“I see it more as a road map to how to do it right,” Mr. Robinson said.

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