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Ex-governor, planner, address growth issues

According to Meredith Sweet of the Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County (SGACC), Southern Maryland’s largest jurisdiction “is at a crucial point in growth. There’s an awful lot riding on this new comprehensive plan of ours. Is our county moving in the right direction?”

On Thursday, May 30, SGACC held a public forum at the College of Southern Maryland’s (CSM) main campus in La Plata. The guest speakers were former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening and Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute.

In April 2011, Glendening spoke at the county’s “Green Symposium,” which was also held at CSM. As he did two years ago, the former governor stated that creating compact, walkable communities that provide transportation options—alternatives to automobiles—and containing mixed-use development was the smart way to accommodate growth. Glendening, who travels throughout the world spreading his smart growth message admitted some people “react violently” when the subject of facilitating growth is brought up to opponents. “They think we want to dictate,” he said. “What we’re talking about is smart use of our tax dollars and infrastructure.”

Glendening repeated his 2011 message that by 2025 aging baby boomers would comprise a significant portion of the population and 72 percent of the nation’s households would not have children. He referred to this looming occurrence as “The Senior Tsunami.”

McMahon had a similar message, noting that big changes are coming to the American paradigm. Such things as the economy, technology and consumer attitudes are prompting the changes. “The question is how are you going to grow?” McMahon warned against “losing our sense of place,” that is, making the county look generic. “Sameness is a minus.” He cited the “hideous strip mall development on Route 5” in Prince George’s County as an example of the unappealing sameness.

McMahon told the audience it was important to blend development with green space. He noted that in New York City’s borough of Manhattan, the most valuable land was located in the area adjacent to Central Park. McMahon also observed that Tyson’s Corner, VA was being converted into a walkable community. “This is the new promised land,” said McMahon. “Tear up the parking lot and rebuild paradise. Mixed use can be pretty easy.”

During her remarks at the forum’s opening, Charles County Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly [D] noted that adopting smart growth policies would hardly be a bane to the building community. “Developers’ interest and smart growth interest—they coincide,” said Kelly.  

The SGACC is compr

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