Barriers to Development Inside Maryland's Priority Funding Areas: Perspectives of Planners, Developers, and Advocates
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Passed in 1997, Maryland’s Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative took a novel approach to growth management, utilizing the power of the purse to encourage sustainable development. The initiative seeks to discourage suburban sprawl through a targeted spending approach, while also allowing local governments to retain their land use decision-making authority. It required local governments to designate Priority Funding Areas (PFAs) where state infrastructure funding would be focused. Through this tool, the State aimed to promote development and revitalization within Maryland’s urbanized areas, while limiting the urbanization of Maryland’s rural areas and green spaces. Data from the Maryland Department of Planning, however, suggests that PFAs are having limited impacts. The percent of single-family acres developed outside of PFAs has risen steadily over time. Development densities have declined in PFAs, with the average parcel size inside PFAs increasing from 0.25 acres in 1990 to 0.28 acres in 2004. Despite their disappointing performance, PFAs are anticipated to play key roles in future policies regarding development on septic systems and in PlanMaryland, the state development plan. Given their growing prominence but questionable efficacy, PFAs warrant further examination. That is the purpose of this study, conducted by the Housing Strategies Group of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, and funded by the Maryland State Builders Association and NAIOP Maryland chapters. The study relies upon responses to a telephone survey of forty-seven representatives from three key stakeholder groups—planners, policy advocates and consultants, and developers. HSG made every effort to obtain the perspectives of a variety of sources but it is important to note that the survey respondents could not be said to be randomly selected and the sample size is too small for rigorous statistical analysis. While not presenting new empirical analysis of the influence of PFAs on development patterns across the State, the study does produce new information on how critical stakeholders view the efficacy of PFAs and the barriers to development inside PFAs. Survey respondents identified a number of ways to improve development conditions in PFAs, ranging from limiting the length of APFO restrictions to reducing impact fees and lowering level of service requirements for certain types of infrastructure inside PFAs. Other recommendations included expediting the state agency review processes and lessening stormwater management and other environmental protection requirements for projects inside PFAs.