Volume XI, Issue 27 ~ July 3-9, 2003

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Gutting Smart Growth a Dumb Idea

In parts of America, Maryland is known for three things: the Orioles; the Atlantic blue crab and the Smart Growth initiatives that blazed trails in fighting unwise development. Make that four if you count those gritty crime shows set in Baltimore: Homicide, The Corner, The Wire.

Hard times are here.

The Orioles are a wretched team. Crabs are scarce. And now Gov. Robert Ehrlich is giving every indication of wanting to torpedo Smart Growth.

We don’t know for certain what Ehrlich is thinking because he isn’t saying. But it doesn’t look good. He fired the top two officials who ran the Smart Growth office, and the few that remain languish in uncertainty.

We’re hoping that Senate President Mike Miller’s crystal ball was fogged when he predicted to the Baltimore Sun recently: “It [Smart Growth] is going to go down the trash can.”

If Miller is right, a whole lot of Marylanders may soon be upset as they watch their remaining greenspaces and critical areas along the Bay turn into subdivisions and ranchettes.

Smart Growth is a law aimed at prohibiting state moneys from being spent on abetting unwise development. It means, for instance, that a developer can’t bank on taxpayers footing the bill for roads, stop lights and infrastructure when converting a luxurious forest into luxurious homes.

The Smart Growth office exists to help oversee the law and to work with counties in the pursuit of wise development.

We admire some of Ehrlich’s self-described libertarian philosophies. (Among other things, libertarians believe in individual pursuits with emphasis on volunteerism and minimal government interference.)

Unfortunately, libertarianism doesn’t work when it comes to protecting Chesapeake Bay. There are simply far too many developers and strip-mall purveyors looking at Chesapeake Country like the proverbial kids in the candy shop.

Trying to fend off environmentalist skeptics last year, Ehrlich told us and others that Smart Growth is a good idea. “Those programs work,” he said. “Smart Growth to me is a lot of common sense.”

Do we detect the rank odor of a broken campaign promise? We certainly hope not, because Smart Growth is one of the few modern tools we have to protect us. Destroying it would be dumb indeed.



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Last updated July 3, 2003 @ 12:37am