State Planning Dept. Launches Website for Public Access to Local Comprehensive Plans

Site Provides Open Government Access to the Master Plan Process

BALTIMORE (November 13, 2007) - The Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP), Richard Eberhart Hall, unveiled a new Internet site today that provides access to the proposed comprehensive plans of local jurisdictions and MDP's comments to those plans. This new website is responsive to Governor O'Malley's initiative to provide Marylanders open access to the workings of state government and the public process.

Providing access to these plans, also known as master plans or master development plans, makes a somewhat complicated and often closed process more open to the general public, noted MDP officials. This site explains what comprehensive plans are, how they are adopted, the importance to Smart Growth and the role of the State in the process.

The address for the website is .

"I applaud Secretary Hall and his Department for taking a positive step in demystifying an important process. Giving Maryland citizens open access to its government is an important step to having an informed and engaged electorate," Governor O'Malley said in a prepared statement. "We are committed to taking the actions necessary to grow Maryland smarter through sustainable development. Making these plans and comments available to the public ensures that every Marylander can be a part of that."

"Our hope is that by making these plans- as well as my Department's comments to these plans- available to the public, a more informed public process will take place," Secretary Hall said. "It is the responsibility of every Marylander to contribute to this public discourse so that, as a State, we follow the Smart Growth visions and create high-quality, sustainable communities and protect our precious natural resources."

Comprehensive plans are documents officially adopted by local governments, which direct the manner in which a municipality, county or area of a county develops. Created and adopted through a citizen-directed process, these plans chart the course by which local jurisdictions, i.e. counties and municipalities, follow in locating new growth, protecting valuable open space and natural resources, preserving their unique character and enriching quality of life of its residents. These plans include maps showing proposed future land use and anticipated transportation and community facilities. They contain policies for protecting the environment and recommendations for amending local development ordinances in a manner that helps achieve the comprehensive plan's objectives.

MDP, on behalf of the State, reviews comprehensive plans for consistency with State laws, specifically Article 66B, the 1992 Economic Growth, Resource Protection and Planning Act, the 1997 Priority Funding Areas Act and the requirements of House Bill 1141 from the 2006 General Assembly session. MDP's review and comment on local plans are provided as recommendations to insure local plans reflect the best land use policies and practices consistent with Smart Growth.

Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, entitled Land Use, was added to the Maryland Code in 1927 and is the enabling State law that gives local government the power to prepare and adopt a comprehensive plan that directs how land will be developed. The article delegates this and two other basic planning and land use regulatory powers to the State's municipalities, Baltimore City and non-charter counties. The other powers are to adopt and enforce zoning ordinances and to subdivide land into individual lots. The 1992 Economic Growth, Resource Protection and Planning Act requires local governments to address the eight visions of Smart Growth in comprehensive plans.

Source: Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)

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