Why smart growth frustrates players in the system: study

Jan 18, 2012
This map shows areas designated for smart growth development in Maryland. Credit: Courtesy Maryland Dept. of Planning

Maryland planners, developers and land-use advocates consider the state's smart growth tools too weak, frustrating their desire for development within existing urban areas, finds a new University of Maryland study based on interviews with a representative group of stakeholders.

"Just about everyone feels squeezed between a rock and a hard place - wanting development where state laws intend to promote growth, but often seeing it thwarted by both local opposition and regulatory barriers," says study co-author Gerrit Knaap, who directs the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth.

"All stakeholders express a great deal of frustration, and most urge a more coordinated system," he adds.

The report, "Barriers to Development Inside Priority Funding Areas: Perspectives of Planners, Developers, and Advocates, " is based on in-depth interviews with 47 representatives of three key stake-holder groups active in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

The study was commissioned by NAIOP Maryland, which represents the commercial real estate industry, and the Maryland State Builders Association, which represents the state's residential builders, developers, remodelers, suppliers and contractors.

SPECIFIC FINDINGS: The researchers find that a majority of stakeholders believe it is easier to develop outside areas designated for smart growth - so-called Priority Funding Areas (PFAs). Storm water regulations, citizen opposition, and adequate public facility ordinances were the reasons most frequently cited as hindering development inside PFAs.

Earlier research by Knaap and the National Center for Smart Growth found objective indications that the state's is "barely moving the needle on most widely accepted measures of smart growth."

The new study is one of the first systematic investigations of the perceptions of stakeholders, with knowledge based on personal experience, the researchers say.

"The findings of this report confirm what we have been saying for some time: Priority Funding Areas need to be strengthened if Maryland wants to grow smart," Knaap says. "But the unanimity of opinion is striking. The majority want more effective tools and better coordination of policies."

  • More than three-quarters of respondents say PFAs are only "somewhat effective" or "not effective at all."
  • Nearly four times as many respondents say it's more difficult to develop land inside than outside PFAs.
  • High rise apartments and mixed use developments are viewed as the most difficult products to develop within PFAs.
  • Zoning and the adequacy of infrastructure are viewed as the most influential public policy tools.
PARTICIPANTS: The planners interviewed included representatives from the twelve counties in the study area as well as the eight largest municipalities with zoning and planning authority.

The policy advocates ranged from staff of local community-based groups, to staffers at prominent statewide nonprofit agencies.

The developers interviewed were from a diverse group, including firms specializing in mixed-use urban-infill development; traditional single-family residential development, and commercial development.

While the sample size is too small to support rigorous statistical analysis, the researchers say the study is indicative of widely held perceptions.

RECOMMENDATIONS: The report lists a series of recommendations that it says are needed for state and local governments to balance economic development, population growth and improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

These include steps designed to integrate PFA targets more fully into a county's overall planning process; make sure that PFAs are drawn to accommodate non-residential development and mixed-use projects; give local governments greater flexibility in defining the PFAs, provided they adequately restrict growth in other locations; give local areas greater flexibility to reduce infrastructure and other regulatory restrictions within the PFAs; among other incentives designed to make development in PFAs more attractive to developers and local governments.

"If the system is to work more smoothly, areas designated for smart growth need to be practical and attractive for all parties, and that entails building a lot more flexibility into the system," Knaap concludes. "State and local governments need to assure there is capacity and political support to grow inside PFAs."

Explore further: Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

More information: Report: smartgrowth.umd.edu/assets/doc… pfabarriers_2012.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

Oct 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

Oct 21, 2014

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

What labels on textiles can tell us about society

Oct 21, 2014

Throughout Chinese history, dynastic states used labels on textiles to spread information on the maker, the commissioner, the owner or the date and site of production. Silks produced in state-owned manufacture ...

US company sells out of Ebola toys

Oct 17, 2014

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hockart
not rated yet Jan 19, 2012
Betting the majority of the US is facing this problem.