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What Maryland's Plan Does

Public investment where growth belongs

May 1, 1998 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Maryland's Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative is a comprehensive investment and land use strategy to slow sprawl that goes into effect this fall. The centerpiece of the plan is a law that directs state agencies to invest public funds for economic development in existing cities and towns, and to deny most allocations that encourage suburban sprawl.

Defining Where the State Invests Public Funds

• The bulk of state economic development spending is to be made in "Priority Funding Areas." These include every existing city and town in the state, plus designated places where local governments and the state anticipate growth and have built or are planning to build water and sewer systems.
• Local governments are required to provide the state Office of Planning with maps that show the precise boundaries of the communities, rural villages, and previously developed regions that constitute their Priority Funding Areas. The Office of Planning is responsible for making this information available to other state agencies.
• Public investments covered by the law include, but are not limited to: new roads, water and sewer systems, economic development grants, housing grants, leasing of state office space, and construction of new state buildings, schools, government buildings, factories, retail stores, malls, and civic centers.
Exceptions for projects outside Priority Funding Areas include those that protect public health, or involve federal funds that cannot be constrained by state law.

Rebuilding Cities, Investing in Neighborhoods

The Initiative:
• Establishes a new school construction funding policy that encourages modernization and expansion of existing schools, and discourages building new schools in outlying areas.
• Provides tax credits to business owners who create at least 25 new full-time jobs in cities, towns, and
other areas that already have been developed.
• Provides $200 million in below-market-rate mortgages to encourage home buying in urban neighborhoods.
• Establishes a $300,000 state mortgage program that provides grants of at least $3,000 to families that purchase homes in Priority Funding Areas near their place of work.
• Provides income tax credits equal to 15% of the cost of rehabilitating historic structures.
• Directs the Department of Business and Economic Development to invest state funds in jobs, plant modernizations, new businesses, and other activities in Priority Funding Areas.
• Establishes new health standards and provides loans, grants, and property tax credits to more quickly clean up contaminated urban sites and promote redevelopment.

Preserving Farmland and Natural Areas

The Initiative:
Directs the state Department of Transportation to work more closely with local governments in planning and paying for improvements to repair and enlarge roads in cities and towns, and to discourage building new roads in undeveloped regions.
• Prevents state agencies from investing public dollars in most construction planned for rural regions and natural areas.
• Establishes up to $154 million in general obligation bonds and state appropriations to buy land and purchase development rights that will conserve 200,000 acres of farmland and open space by 2011.

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