Adam Bednar//Daily Record Business Writer//June 9, 2014
//Daily Record Business Writer
//June 9, 2014
OCEAN CITY – Although the concept of smart growth has its roots in protecting the environment, supporters such as former Gov. Parris Glendening argue it’s an economic development tool.
Glendening, now the president of Smart Growth America, said he believes the concept, which emphasizes building housing near transportation, shopping and jobs, is needed because of a shift in the way people want to live.
“It has recognized a changing population that wants communities with a sense of place. The old sprawl, strip shopping center, or an office park standing out in the middle of a corn field, is simply not going to be successful anymore,” Glendening said.
The former governor, who spoke Sunday at the annual convention of the Maryland Municipal League, is not alone in his belief that implementing smart growth plans will benefit Maryland’s cities.
Elected municipal officials from areas as diverse as Salisbury and Bel Air are also preaching the gospel of smart growth.
Jake Day, Salisbury’s City Council president, said smart growth in his town means controlling sprawl and limiting development being built farther outside the city center.
“We’re either going to wind up with unreasonable tax rates or we’re going to end up with failing infrastructure,” Day said.
He also said that following smart growth principles has helped encourage development in town. Currently, the city is negotiating with a developer interested in constructing a mixed-use building on a municipal parking lot downtown and turning the historic firehouse into a music venue. The city has also created an equivalent dwelling unit incentive that waives water and sewer connection fees in certain parts of Salisbury.
“What we have right now is we have land and capacity and water and sewer. We are selling our land to developers, but we’re negotiating to get what we want on that land,” Day said.
Bel Air Commissioner Susan Burdette also said that smart growth in her town means getting people to live, work and play in town. She said the city’s smart growth plan has already resulted in new restaurants opening in town and the rehabbing of the city’s old armory.
“It’s keeping citizens in town,” Burdette said.
Yet even the most ardent supporters of smart growth acknowledge the concept can be a hard sell in some parts of the state.
Glendening said he understands that many county governments don’t understand and aren’t enthusiastic about implementing smart growth policies. But he stressed that many towns are embracing the concept.
“Our goal is not to convince every single person that they ought to be a proponent of smart growth. Our goal is that we should have very successful communities based on smart growth that prosper and do well,” he said.
But some supporters try to avoid using the words smart growth when discussing the topic with residents.
Day said that when he discusses the topic he emphasize the idea of permanence and investment.
“I don’t know that I ever use the term smart growth when I’m talking with people. I don’t ever think I use the word sustainable when I talk to people,” Day said.
Burdette said that she, too, has heard stories from elected officials and city employees from other towns that they don’t dare say smart growth or sustainability. But she said that hasn’t been the case in Bel Air.
“The town has accepted it. We have several hundred volunteers on all kinds of committees,” Burdette said.P