- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The state has received 22 applications from developers and communities across Maryland that are looking to take part in an antisprawl program.

The Priority Places program inaugurated by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, pledges state help with building projects in already developed areas.

Deputy Planning Secretary Florence Burian said she was “thrilled” with the response to the Ehrlich initiative, even though two ambitious redevelopment projects that state officials had promoted as ideal candidates did not apply.

She declined to provide details about the proposals received by the Wednesday deadline last week until other state agencies had seen them, but did release a list that generally identifies each project seeking state help.

The projects stretch from Frostburg in Western Maryland to Caroline County on the Eastern Shore, with two in Baltimore and one in Annapolis. Sixteen came from city or town governments, four from private developers and one each from a nonprofit group and a county.

Absent from the list, though, were the ambitious effort to redevelop the west side of Baltimore’s downtown and the private developer working to transform an abandoned shopping center near Annapolis into a $400 million “lifestyle center,” featuring stores, restaurants, offices and homes.

Priority Places represents Mr. Ehrlich’s attempt to shift the focus of the nationally recognized Smart Growth program launched in 1997 by then-Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, which seeks to curb suburban sprawl by limiting state funding for roads, schools and other services to existing communities.

Building projects and community-revitalization plans selected under the new program would be offered the coordinated technical help of all state nated technical help of all state agencies, given “fast-track” regulatory reviews and be put first in line for any state grants that are available — although officials acknowledge that because of the state’s fiscal crisis, the program has no dedicated funding.

Though some have suggested that the lack of funding handicaps the program, executives of the two touted projects that did not apply said it was more a question of timing than the attractiveness of the state’s help.

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