ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 27 -- A Maryland commission charged with fashioning ways to manage growth recommended today that the state be given extensive control over how local lands are developed and that millions of dollars more be spent to direct growth into designated areas.
The commission's draft proposals, endorsed in concept by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, are intended to protect the Chesapeake Bay against an expected 20 percent population boom that threatens during the next three decades to carve up farms and forests for sprawling subdivisions and send tons of automobile pollution and other contaminants into the state's air and waterways.
Schaefer, who appointed the panel a year ago, said he is concerned about the "measle effect" of sprawl development dotting the countryside. But the proposals are sure to incite resistance from rural communities that want to attract growth and local officials who view land-use decisions as their prerogative.
"It is not an intrusion on the prerogatives of the city council or the county commissioners," said Schaefer, who will send a version of the plan to the General Assembly in January. "We are trying to help them organize some of their growth."
The Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region would limit new growth to designated areas in each of the state's 23 counties, develop those areas more densely to promote efficient public services, ban building on environmentally sensitive land, and limit construction on farmland to one house per 20 acres.
The proposals would not stop growth, but would encourage the 1 million new residents expected to move to Maryland during the next 30 years to live on smaller lots and closer to existing towns. Commission members said their proposals for more efficient land use would save 400,000 acres from development during the next three decades, slowing what Chairman Michael D. Barnes, a former U.S. representative, called the "chewing up of rural resources at a rate that is genuinely frightening."
The commission will air its proposals at a public hearing on Dec. 15, then turn in its final recommendations to Schaefer by early next year so he can include them in his legislative proposals.
Under the draft recommendations released today, localities would have to submit plans for state approval by Dec. 31, 1993, that would divide their land into four classifications: developed, growth areas, sensitive lands, and farm and forest areas.
The state would have to spend an estimated $1.2 billion during the next two decades, or $62 million a year, paying for roads, sewers and other improvements intended to entice development to designated growth zones.
Public services such as sewer systems would be built only in growth areas. As one example, if the proposed outer beltway were constructed, no interchanges, which promote development, would be allowed in areas not designated for growth, Barnes said.
The proposals of the commission, which included representatives of local government, environmental groups and business, are more far-reaching than the state's 1984 Critical Areas law, which limits shoreline construction, and 1989 legislation to regulate development on freshwater wetlands. They are expected to provoke a more intense replay of battles between rural areas arguing for the right to determine their own future and environmentalists and others who say that the bay's future is at stake.
Past measures on land use have faced strong opposition from Eastern Shore lawmakers, including House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent), whose support is critical to passage of major bills.
Lawmakers from those counties, along with rural interest groups such as the Farm Bureau, have argued that they want the opportunity to cash in on the fruits of development, as suburban counties have.
But William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the commission, said lawmakers should not lose sight of the broader need to preserve the state's most precious natural resource.
"It may not be enough," Baker said of the commission's proposal, "but it at least is getting us started down the road to better land-use planning."
Although the proposal's cost is bound to raise eyebrows at a time when state spending is being tightened and the real estate market is in the doldrums, Walter A. Frey III, the Chamber of Commerce official who headed the panel's drafting committee, said the lull also would provide "a very good time while everybody is on hold" to overhaul the state's growth policies.
The commission's proposals come at a time when growth is a potent political issue in some suburban communities, fueling voter disenchantment with clogged roads, crowded schools and higher taxes to pay for new services. In some of the state's less populous places, the issue is not growth but the lack of it, and the commission's proposals may get a skeptical reaction there, said Charles MacLeod, associate director of the Maryland Association of Counties.
A surprising 59 percent of county offices changed hands in the last election, he said, and the new officeholders probably will not want to give up one of local government's most important powers.
MacLeod described the commission's proposals as a "quantum leap from where we are today" and "definitely moving in on what has traditionally been a local government authority."
"To write that kind of stuff into law without having proof that this is going to save the bay . . . . There are just a lot of assumptions there," he said.
A spokesman for the Farm Bureau, Norman E. Astle, said his group likely would oppose any proposals that would deprive farmers of the opportunity to convert the equity in their land into operating cash or retirement money.
Commission members tried to play down the issue of additional state control over local land use, saying that local governments would retain authority over specific zoning decisions, although those decisions must conform with the state-approved land-use plan.
The Maryland panel's report would have little impact on counties such as Montgomery or Prince George's, which are nearly fully developed and have numerous environmental regulations on new construction. It would have more impact on counties such as Howard, where a recently approved growth plan would allow denser construction in the rural western part of the county than the Barnes commission would permit. The report's greatest impact would be on more rural places such as Charles and Calvert counties, which are developing quickly.
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) said the message he distilled from the November elections was loud and clear: Residents in the state's major suburban counties are tired of growth, and would welcome the state's help in ensuring adequate roads, schools and other facilities.
"It's imperative the state have a comprehensive plan," Miller said. "There are going to be local officials antsy about this proposal, but if they look at it from the position of . . . the State of Maryland, I think they might be able to . . . see some real advantages."
By Dec. 31, 1993, localities, using state criteria, would designate their land as developed, a growth area, sensitive land or a farm and forest area.
The state would approve local plans and would pay only for roads, sewers and other major improvements that conform with local mapping.
The state should pay a "major share" of the estimated additional $62 million a year that localities would need for new roads, schools and sewers designed to attract development.
New growth areas would be more densely built, with at least 2.8 units per acre, about equal to the planned new town of Columbia.
Most construction would be banned on sensitive land, and only one house per 20 acres could be built on farmland.
Existing building permits that would violate the new rules would be valid for two years.
The critical areas along the state shoreline would not be affected.