2000 Winner
State of Maryland
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Employees of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are given money to pay closing costs when they purchase homes close to work.

North Beach, a small town on the Chesapeake Bay, received millions of dollars in state grant funds and tax credits to revitalize a run-down commercial strip.

A private developer of the derelict American Can Company factory site in east Baltimore received funding assistance and tax credits to create a mixed-use commercial and office project which provided new jobs and served as a catalyst for the revitalization of the area.

These are some of the recipients of incentives offered by the State of Maryland's Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Program, the brainchild of Governor Parris N. Glendening, and the nation's first statewide effort to promote Smart Growth. "Smart growth," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment....Smart growth recognizes connections between development and quality of life."

Maryland's Smart Growth initiative is a direct response to development trends that have caused numerous problems: economic and physical decline and population loss in older towns and cities; excessive use of land for residential and commercial expansion on the metropolitan fringe, or "sprawl;" loss and degradation of agricultural, forestry, and natural resources; over-reliance on cars and accompanying congestion, air pollution, and energy consumption; and wasteful and costly public spending on redundant infrastructure and services to support sprawl development.

The State uses its $19 billion annual budget as incentive to encourage less costly, more environmentally sensitive, and better-planned growth. All 23 Maryland counties have created specific land-use plans, designating areas that they want to be eligible for future State financial support. Taken together, these plans represent a locally designed, statewide plan for programmatic support and preservation.

The Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Program represents a holistic approach to development. Its main features are the encouragement of growth where it makes economic and environmental sense and the preservation of open spaces. For example, two sites were considered when deciding where to situate a new satellite campus of the University of Maryland in Hagerstown the downtown area and farmland along an Interstate highway.

Although both were eligible for State funding, the "smarter" choice was the downtown district, where an abandoned former department store was renovated, thereby taking advantage of existing utilities and services and spurring revitalization in the commercial district. With a goal of preserving over 200,000 acres of undeveloped land by the year 2011, the State has already designated 47,000 acres of environmentally valuable land for permanent protection.

According to a report issued by the National Audubon Society in 1999, Maryland "has become the leader in Smart Growth legislation under the guidance of Governor Parris Glendening, who has established a comprehensive plan for controlling urban sprawl." Other states have already followed Maryland's lead in assessing and managing land-use development, rural land protection, and urban revitalization within a single framework.

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