Not so smart: land consumption in Maryland has not demonstrated smart growth in the past decade

Environment Maryland’s Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center released a report today (3/10) detailing land consumption trends in Maryland between 1970 and 2008.  The report, titled “Not So Smart: Land Consumption in Maryland after a Decade of Smart Growth,” shows that since the passage of Maryland’s nationally recognized smart growth laws in 1997, low density sprawl development continues to plague the state. Read more at:


As the “Not so Smart” report released today points out – almost 3/4 of the acreage used for residential growth in Frederick County between 1998 and 2007 occurred outside priority funding areas where all single family dwellings and commercial development was largely low density sprawl (averaging 2.1 acres/home). Average lot size actually doubled in those years!  We lost over  6700 acres to development by approving low density sprawl versus the average .3 acres/home density that we find within PFAs, which would have been better but note – it would still be only 3 dwellings/acre!

It is possible that there was little draw to develop within PFA’s given the allure less expensive land outside PFAs.  That, plus the failure of the state to provide funding for agricultural preservation outside the PFAs and for schools, roads, water, sewer and libraries within them made the PFAs far less effective than they could have been.

As a result, land that should be protecting our streams, providing habitat for our animals and used for growing healthy food is now permanently lost. Instead of benefiting county residents it is exacerbating school overcrowding, traffic jams, straining public services and polluting streams.

As Maryland expects to house an additional 1 million people by the year 2030  we need to ensure that our development is the most efficient and cost effective – and looks at the true costs to taxpayers the environment, the true impacts on crime, health, schools, and children. This is not a future where there are no single family homes, but it is a future where our tax money benefits the public interest.

From the desk of Friends of Frederick County – Janice Wiles, Executive Director