Asking What Comes Next, as Maryland Tries to Move Beyond Sprawl

McKay Jenkins looks at the challenges confronting Maryland as the state tries to reckon with the devastating consequences of the era of sprawl and prepare for an additional one million people over the next twenty five years.
April 5, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With the state's natural and man-made systems stretched to their breaking point, Jenkins speaks with Rich Hall, Maryland's director of planning, who has the unenviable task of figuring out how to manage the need to accommodate 500,000 new homes in the next two and a half decades.

While a thoughtful new document called PlanMaryland lays out a sustainable growth vision for the state, already the fifth-most densely populated in the country, it has no legally binding language and poses a tough question for the area's residents and politicians, writes Jenkins: "What makes a state a good place to live, not just today but for a long time? Because when it comes right down to it, Maryland can grow like an oak, using its resources wisely and well, staying within its natural limits. Or it can grow like a cancer."

In a thorough piece, Jenkins looks at the key challenges the state is facing around such issues as housing ("how to induce people and businesses to move back to cities and towns"); protecting farms and forests ("From 1982 to 2007...state farmers sold some 500,000 acres of land-one-fifth of Maryland's total-to developers); and transportation ("The state's average commute time is now nearly thirty-two minutes, longer than both New York and New Jersey and one of the highest numbers in the country).

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Published on Friday, March 30, 2012 in Urbanite
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