Smart Growth in Maryland: Looking Forward and Looking Back

Gerrit Knaap and John Frece (2007)

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Spring of 2007 will mark the 10th anniversary of the passage of Maryland’s Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative; an effort designed to discourage sprawl development, foster more compact communities, protect the best remaining farms and open space in the state, and save taxpayers from the growing cost of providing services and infrastructure to serve far-flung development. Almost before its various provisions took effect in 1997 and 1998, the Maryland initiative generated interest and acclaim across the country. It received numerous awards and became the principal legacy of the program’s primary architect, former Governor Parris N. Glen- dening. Governors in other states, such as New Jersey, Colorado and Massachusetts, instituted their own “smart growth” proposals, often modeled after portions of the Maryland program. Even the popularity and wide usage of the now omnipresent phrase “smart growth” can be attributed in large part to the Maryland program.

But, what has been the effect of Maryland’s Smart Growth pro- gram? Looking at it some ten years later, has it worked? Did it accomplish what it was designed to do? What have been the strengths and weaknesses of the Maryland approach, and how can lessons from the Maryland experience be used to offer a new set of policymakers in Maryland, as well as elsewhere in the nation, practical suggestions on how to make smart growth smarter?