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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Kirby Delauter

(10/11) When I think about Governor Martin O’Malley’s new PlanMaryland, I am reminded of the old horror story opening – Be Afraid – Be VERY Afraid!

The new planning document that has been dumped onto Maryland’s local governments, called PlanMaryland is a horror story! Instead of being crushed by the Jaws of the Great White Shark, we are being thrown into the Jaws of a bureaucratic Hell.

In the Governor’s never ending zeal to show his bona fides for the environment above all else, he has crafted a truly disturbing document in which he claims will help preserve Maryland’s environment and countryside, but will in fact take away the autonomy of Maryland’s citizens. The new environmental "Green" movement including PlanMaryland is nothing more than socialism with lipstick.

PlanMaryland unfortunately is not a piece of legislation that we can simply mobilize against to defeat, but is instead a regulatory document, one already that can be simply implemented by un-elected state employees. More precisely, it is an enhanced power and land grab by the overreaching bureaucrats in Annapolis! This document would relegate local land use planning to the back of the bus in favor of statewide planning and central control.

The Maryland Department of Planning believes a need exists for take control of our local right to self government. The U.S. Census lists Maryland as the 5th densest state in the nation and projections figure that one million people will be added by the year 2035. Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a master plan in April to curb the suburban sprawl that comes with such population explosion, called PlanMaryland. The state proposes to reward communities that embrace efficient and responsible growth while withholding funding from those that don’t control development. Local leaders have cried foul, complaining that the plan is akin to a state take-over of what should be local domain. A revised plan was released on September 9, in effort to address the concerns. Maryland makes another push for smart growth.

Among the topics that received deepest attention in the first draft of PlanMaryland was the notion of "GrowthPrint" and the underlying concept of setting areas appropriate for growth. Local government officials have historically argued that a public, community-based process of comprehensive planning – with true accountability to the local decision-makers for their actions – was the best model for this determination.

Under current Maryland law, the main vehicle for state/local partnership on growth areas is the Priority Funding Area (or PFA) concept, arising from "Smart Growth" legislation in 1996. Through a lengthy negotiation and a series of compromises, the PFA system essentially allows the State to determine (by statute) certain criteria for PFA selection, the county and municipal governments to designate PFAs within their boundaries, and the State (through the Maryland Department of Planning) to comment on local designations where there may be debate about the qualifications for a certain area being thus named. Ultimately the PFAs – the areas where numerous state programs are to target their resources and attention – are a local creation, based on state guidance. In other words, do as we say, or you will get none of YOUR tax money returned from the State. PFA in my opinion could also stand for ( Paying For Aristocracy ), where the elitists in Annapolis try their best to keep us beholden to their socialist regulations.

The first draft of PlanMaryland established the GrowthPrint concept, creating a starting point based on a series of existing state programs. From that point, the local governments were invited to apply for additional areas to be included within the GrowthPrint designation, but the final designation was again a state designation. If the State, presumably the Department of Planning, did not agree with Frederick County’s judgment on the appropriate places for targeted growth in the county, it could simply deny the GrowthPrint designation, with uncertain but potentially significant results in terms of state funding, permit approvals, and the like. In many ways, this decision – who sets growth areas – is the core of the ongoing debate over intrusion into land use decision-making.

In the end, the local governments may "nominate," but they are then beholden to a state decision to "approve." Under PlanMaryland, even in the revised draft, it remains the state’s appointed officials who make the determination what areas are suitable for growth, while the local elected officials participate only in an advisory and informational capacity.

There has been one good thing to come out of this entire mess though. The conservative, rural counties have started to work together to push back on this big state governmental intrusion.

I am pleased to report that the Frederick County Commissioners have joined the fight. We have been working with our sister counties in Western Maryland, Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Carroll Counties, in meeting and planning jointly to oppose this effort.

In closing I will ad a quote from one of my favorite politicians, Senator "Bluto" Blutarsky when he stated " Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor"? It wasn’t over then, and it’s not over now as long as we stand up and let our State officials know that we intend to keep our property rights and our right to encompass our growth plans on a local level with local elected officials making these choices, not un-elected bureaucrats from Annapolis that have no skin in the game as to the local issues that effect how we grow and base our economy.

Read other articles from Frederick County Commissioners