Do Smart Growth Instruments in Maryland Make a Difference?

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In 1997, Maryland passed a package of legislation collectively referred to as "smart growth." This innovative "inside/outside" approach to managing growth relies on targeting state resources to encourage growth and investment in existing urbanized areas and areas planned for development (Priority Funding Areas) while discouraging growth and encouraging the preservation of rural areas (Rural Legacy Areas.) Maryland's approach to managing growth relies on the targeting of resources into these spatially designated areas through state programs. Additionally, the state also created or re-designed several revitalization programs to spatially target resources to encourage revitalization and redevelopment.

In three related essays, my dissertation examines the efficacy of three smart growth instruments in Maryland: Priority Funding Areas, Rural Legacy Areas, and Community Legacy Areas. In studying the implementation and outcomes of smart growth instruments, I consider the impact of these policies on development, preservation, and redevelopment patterns. I explore whether targeting resources through the Priority Funding Areas program has been effective in directing development into Priority Funding Areas. I examine whether directing conservation funds into Rural Legacy Areas has restricted development in Rural Legacy Areas. Finally, I examine whether Community Legacy Areas have been effective at encouraging renovation in targeted areas.

Overall, I found that the performance of these instruments has been mixed. Because implementation was inconsistent and because the instruments were not well integrated with local planning statutes, smart growth in Maryland has fallen short of expectations. In most cases and with some exceptions, the impact of smart growth instruments on development, preservation, and redevelopment patterns has been slight. To improve performance in these policy areas, the state should consider better integration with local planning statutes and state budgeting processes. For states considering a spatially targeted incentive approach, I suggest that it is important to analyze the impact of state spending on development decisions and carefully consider how spatial targeting will be nested in existing state and local processes. But in the face of high development pressure and lacking strong local planning, it is unlikely that the state budget alone will be enough to impact development, redevelopment, and preservation decisions.