NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 13, 2004

Smart growth developments are not embraced by everybody -- in fact, state planners in Maryland are learning that residents seem to prefer sprawl.

At issue is a 508-acre site between Baltimore and Washington known as Maple Lawn Farms. Planners envisioned an area clustered with shops, offices, apartments and at least four to five houses per acre.

But pressure from neighborhood groups changed the plans of planners:

  • County planners reduced the development to no more than 3 homes per acre, totaling about 1,524 homes in the area.
  • Further, more detailed plans provoked more opposition -- reducing the density to about 2.2 homes per acre for a total of 1,116 homes.

Even the former chairman of the Howard County chapter of the Sierra Club, an organization which advocates smart growth, lives about a mile away from the proposed development and prefers the more sprawling version.

After former governor Parris Glendening was inaugurated in 1995, he pursued a policy of high-density development through state-funded incentive programs to builders. However, observers have questioned the effectiveness of the program:

  • Prior to 1997, about 75 percent of the land used for home building in the state was from pastures, woods and other areas outside designated smart-growth areas.
  • In 2001, the percentage was virtually unchanged.
  • In fact, home building uses about 25 square miles of Maryland's landscape every year.

David Bliden, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, says, "Smart growth is inconsistent with the American dream or a big home on a five-acre lot the concept of a higher authority, of a Big Brother, is inconsistent with the democratic principles that have to be intertwined with land use management."

Source: Peter Whorisky, "Planners' Brains vs. Public's Brawn," Washington Post, August 10, 2004.

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