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Hogan casts aside O’Malley’s ‘Plan Maryland’

OCEAN CITY — Gov. Larry Hogan told county leaders — most from rural jurisdictions — that he is officially casting off a controversial state program meant to prevent sprawl that many local governments saw as an encroachment on their authority.

Gov. Larry Hogan (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Gov. Larry Hogan (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Hogan’s announcement is mostly symbolic, as nearly all references to the program known as “Plan Maryland” were previously scrubbed from the state Department of Planning website.

But Hogan, speaking Saturday to a gathering of local government officials at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, said his version of the plan would address concerns of county officials the state was limiting local control of development.

Hogan said local officials, who saw Plan Maryland as part of what has been called the “war on rural Maryland,” have repeatedly complained to him about the plan, implemented by Hogan’s predecessor, Martin O’Malley.

“This new process will be transparent and collaborative with the primary goal of creating a better framework for a better Maryland,” he said. “And this time, the state will work closely with citizens, counties, and local jurisdictions. Most importantly, we will finally put local planning authority back into the hands of local governments – where it belongs.”

Hogan did not mention the Plan Maryland program in either his speech nor a press release following his address but noted the most recent state plan to address development was created five years ago.

There are few details of exactly what will replace Plan Maryland or when the new program will be implemented.

The governor did not speak to reporters following his speech. Acting Planning Secretary Wendi W. Peters also offered few details.

“We will continue to listen to what local governments have to say and formulate the state development plan,” Peters said in an interview immediately following Hogan’s speech. “So, the process, the outreach, I think the governor outlined that.”

Plan Maryland, which is not codified in law, is based on a 1974 law that called on the state to have a comprehensive development plan to prevent sprawl and protect agricultural land.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, outgoing executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said Hogan’s announcement was confirmation of the Republican governor’s lack of interest in implementing Plan Maryland.

“I also have questions about what was so wrong with the former plan other than who did it and how will this one be different,” Schmidt-Perkins said.

She said Hogan’s failure to even mention the previous plan was disappointing because of the amount of work that went into it.

“I’d hope that his efforts would build upon that plan, make it better,” she said. “That’s what I’d like to see but that’s not going to happen.”

Despite the complaints of some local governments, she added, there is a role for the state to play in deterring sprawl development.

“I have concerns about some of the governor’s language because it suggests that this will be a whole lot of local planning instead of state planning,” Schmidt-Perkins said. “What we know is that that doesn’t work. It needs to go both ways. There is a state interest here. What one local jurisdiction does can have huge impacts on a neighboring jurisdiction. There has got to be some state standards because there is a state interest.”

 

Peters, the acting planning secretary, continues in her position under a cloud of controversy that involves the governor withdrawing her nomination earlier this year, less than an hour after the Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted to recommend that the full Senate reject her appointment.

During her confirmation hearing, lawmakers noted that Plan Maryland had been removed from the Department of Planning website.

Hogan subsequently re-appointed her after the 90-day session ended despite language in the budget that was designed to prohibit the governor from re-appointing her and paying her. Peters has not been paid since July 1 and, along with Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader, is suing State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, who has refused to pay the pair in accordance with the budget.


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