LINTHICUM, MD., JAN. 7 -- The commission charged with drafting new rules on growth voted tonight to propose broad legislation that would require Maryland's 23 counties to submit land-use plans to the state for approval but, faced with a local government backlash, left crucial details partly unresolved.
The legislation that the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region proposed to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who named the panel a year ago, would add new state controls over every acre of property in the state.
The plans would funnel housing and commercial growth to established areas and restrict it elsewhere to protect rural or sensitive land and save spending on roads, schools and other services. The idea is to manage an expected 20 percent population boom over the next three decades by limiting sprawl development.
The commission's proposal drew fire from many local officials who object to additional state control and from property owners, some of whom dubbed it environmental socialism. Two of the commission's lawmaker-members, state Sen. Bernie Fowler (D-Calvert) and Del. Ronald A. Guns (D-Eastern Shore), warned that it would face tough sledding in the legislature.
"I'm getting about 90 percent resistance to this," Fowler said of his constituents' reaction. "I think you're going to have a real difficult time with the General Assembly."
As a compromise, the commission agreed to send Schaefer two options: one, a detailed bill outlining exactly how the land-use plans must be written, and another requiring that plans be written but leaving the specifics up to the state Office of Planning to decide after public hearings.
Counties still would have to adopt interim plans by July to restrict most growth to areas already zoned for it. The interim plans would limit rural construction to one house per 20 acres, which is less than many counties now permit.
"I believe that what we've accomplished will have a remarkably positive effect on the future of the state," commission Chairman Michael D. Barnes, a former U.S. representative, said as the meeting ended.
But Regina McNeill, who represented the Maryland Municipal League and was the only commission member to vote against the proposal, said the panel had not allowed enough time for local governments and the public to have their say.
"Nobody knows anything. How can they have reasonable input?" said McNeill, a member of the Berwyn Heights Town Council.
After several months of preliminary meetings, the commission worked behind closed doors for several months before unveiling its proposal last month and holding a single public hearing on it.
At previous meetings, the commission agreed to other weakening amendments, including grandfather and special exception provisions. The plan also drew criticism because it would require the state to spend millions of dollars on roads and schools to attract development, although the money would not be required until the local plans take effect in 1994.