Why smart growth frustrates players in the system: UMD research

January 18, 2012

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - 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 regulatory system 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."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."

Located at the University of Maryland, College Park, the National Center for Smart Growth is a non-partisan center for research and leadership training on smart growth and related land use issues in Maryland, in metropolitan regions around the nation, and in Asia and Europe.


Casey Dawkins
Report Co-Author

Gerrit Knaap
Report Co-Author

Maggie Haslam, communicator
UMD School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

University of Maryland

Related Development Articles from Brightsurf:

What jigsaw puzzles tell us about child development
New research shows that children only learn to do jigsaw puzzles once they have reached a certain stage of development.

Simulating wind farm development
Engineers have devised a model to describe how, in the process of establishing wind farms, interactions between developers and landowners affect energy production costs.

A new approach to measuring inequalities in development
A new study by researchers from IIASA and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology for the first time systematically explored and compared the use of the Human Life Indicator as a viable alternative to the conventional Human Development Index as a means of measuring progress in development.

Reconstructing the clock of human development
Researchers used iPS cells to reconstructed the human 'segmentation clock,' a key point in early embryonic development that determines how the body gets segmented.

Mother nature and child development
A world first review of the importance of nature play could transform children's play spaces, supporting investment in city and urban parks, while also delivering important opportunities for children's physical, social and emotional development.

Citizen science for sustainable development
Monitoring progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals requires a huge amount of data.

A molecular 'atlas' of animal development
Scientists have studied the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans for decades, making essential contributions to basic science.

Novel paradigm in drug development
Targeted protein degradation (TPD) is a new paradigm in drug discovery that could lead to the development of new medicines to treat diseases such as cancer more effectively.

Turbo chip for drug development
In spite of increasing demand, the number of newly developed drugs decreased continuously in the past decades.

New knowledge on the development of asthma
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied which genes are expressed in overactive immune cells in mice with asthma-like inflammation of the airways.

Read More: Development News and Development Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.