McIntosh wants to put the smart' back in growth
Time for consensus to stop,' chairman of House environmental committee says
House Environmental Matters Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh is ready to pick a fight on growth in Maryland.
"I think there has to be in the next few years some real battles on the floor of the House of Delegates about how we pay for what we want in terms of real quality of life," McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore said this week at a forum on smart growth held in Baltimore.
That includes "how to pay for and incentivize smart growth," she said.
In the 12 years since the General Assembly passed smart growth legislation designed to curb sprawl by fostering development closer to urban centers, transit and infrastructure, advocates of the legislation are still waiting for the promise of a planning vision forged under Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to be realized.
"For all the work in smart growth over the last 10 years, we haven't gotten very far in achieving the outcomes we need," 1000 Friends of Maryland Executive Director Dru Schmidt-Perkins told about 30 people Tuesday at the Admiral Fell Inn in Fells Point at a discussion sponsored by the statewide organization that advocates for smart growth.
"We now know unless we change our development patterns we will not end up saving the [Chesapeake] Bay."
The state must reconsider the definition of priority funding areas — higher-density urban locales and municipalities that are close to water, sewer and other infrastructure and are designated for growth — and find incentives to encourage building there, McIntosh said. The General Assembly passed legislation this year to better track where and how development occurs, but left out a provision that would have required 80 percent of construction to take place in such priority areas.
Lawmakers also have to figure out how to fund mass transit in order to develop more communities around transit.
"It's not enough to talk about it," McIntosh said. "You've got to have the money behind it."
McIntosh has championed charging fees to builders who use impervious surfaces that contribute to pollution from water runoff, and said that she is open to other taxes, such as an increase in the state's gas tax, to help fund transportation.
"If you want a certain quality of life, there is a cost to it," McIntosh said, adding that "my bottom line is it's time for consensus to stop."
A coalition of smart growth, business and environmental groups plans to announce Monday the formation of Transportation for Maryland. The group will focus on ensuring that federal stimulus money goes toward increasing and improving transit options in Maryland and on creating new sources of transportation funding for the state. The group also will push for better planning under the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill. Member groups include 1000 Friends, the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Greater Baltimore Committee.
Maryland has done well in purchasing land through Program Open Space, but needs more long-term efforts on climate change and Chesapeake Bay cleanup, "not tinkering around the edges," said Gerrit Knaap, executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, College Park.