Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 27, 2011

PlanMaryland on hold for now

Senate holding Dec. 12 hearing on controversial issue

CUMBERLAND — Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall has agreed to hold off implementation of PlanMaryland until after a Dec. 12 Senate committee hearing. Hall outlined the decision in a Nov. 18 letter to Senate President Mike Miller.

“We are preparing a final version of the general plan that will serve as a broad vision for the state,” Hall wrote. “This version of the plan will not be presented to the governor until after the hearing on December 12, 2011.”

The Senate president sent a letter to Hall on Oct. 25 asking Hall to hold off on implementation until a hearing could be scheduled. Sen. Joan Carter Conway, the chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, has scheduled the hearing where Hall and other planning staff will present a briefing on PlanMaryland.

Miller wrote his letter because of concerns raised by a number of senators, he said. Legislation was introduced during the October special session relating to the plan, but Miller said the Senate decided to stick with the original purpose of the special session, which was congressional redistricting.

“... the sponsors of the bills expressed concern that PlanMaryland would be put in place in final form prior to commencement of the regular session in January.” Miller said a hearing before implementation would “... be very helpful to members’ understanding of what is being proposed and will allow for additional input on this issue.”

PlanMaryland has become a controversial issue for many local governments, especially in rural areas of the state. The Maryland Association of Counties in a letter of concern in August 2010 said “PlanMaryland should incorporate local comprehensive plans as part of its foundation ... and not seek to supplant local land use authority or micromanage growth.”

Hall said the fears were unfounded.

“The plan does not change statute or regulation and it does not give state agencies powers they do not currently have,” Hall wrote. Some of the concerns with PlanMaryland have already been addressed, Hall said.

“The plan was revised significantly to accommodate most of the comments we received. Among the changes from the first draft, we will not initially designate targeted areas for growth and preservation until the implementation process starts in January,” Hall said. Some local leaders say the planned designations took little account of local comprehensive plans. Hall maintains that during the implementation process, further changes could occur to PlanMaryland.

“Implementation of the plan will take several forms over the coming years and there will be many opportunities for input and alteration,” he said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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