Sunday, June 18, 2006

Regional Planning With Legos

First day back from the beach, and what's on the front page of today's Washington Post? Region's Job Growth a Centrifugal Force (free registration required). Good timing for this article as it focuses on one of the topics I will explore in future posts, specifically the sprawl of residential and commercial growth throughout the Washington-Baltimore area, and it's effect on the regional job market.

When one refers to this region, you are really talking about an area that today not only includes Baltimore, but is more and more reaching into Southern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Richmond and the Maryland Eastern Shore. There are a number of factors that have led to the massive regional growth seen here over the past 30 years, but up until 10-15 years ago, most of the commercial growth existed inside the Beltway. Today's Post article does a nice job in explaining the commercial growth on the fringes of the region and the effect this growth is having on future regional planning efforts. More to come from me on this subject.

Speaking of regional planning efforts, there was one thing mentioned in this article that I thought was worth noting today. This month at the Baltimore Convention Center:

"...300 government officials, business people and civic leaders gathered to discuss how best to accommodate the growth expected in central Maryland over the next 25 years.

Grouped around tables, participants debated where to target future residential and job growth, placing color-coded Legos in the desired locations on a large map. Most groups chose Baltimore and its inner suburbs or inside the Capital Beltway along transit lines in Prince George's -- areas that have a strong infrastructure and that have lagged economically behind much of the state.

But other participants said these hopeful towers of white, blue and yellow Legos in more urbanized areas were out of step with reality. At one table, participants clustered more growth in Howard and Anne Arundel, in acknowledgment of jobs moving to Fort Meade."

Legos huh? Wow, I was hoping that those responsible for regional planning would be using more sophisticated methods than that. Hmmm...


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous envirochickfromnj said...

Even though I live in New Jersey, I own property in Baltimore, so am interested in all things real estate in Maryland-DC area. I work in environmental engineering in NJ, and we have the same anti-sprawl, anti-development types in N.J. They have been very successful in putting more than 2,000,000 acres of N.J. off-limits to development. But what is happening is houses are so expensive in this state that young families and older folks have to leave in order to afford anything. We have a fiscal deficit in N.J., and all the governer can do about it is raise taxes! We can't afford all the property protection we have here in N.J. Building permits in one prime northern county are flat. Nothing since N.J. adopted the Highlands Act, which puts about 800,000 acres off-limits to development. Development means economic activity, and revenues. If you want to stimulate the economy, you don't make it harder to build! You have to make it easier, or the development will leave the state and go to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, which is exactly what is happening. I love how the anti-development crowd likes to come up with cute little sound bites, like: "suburban development is just storage units for people, not neighborhoods". And, "suburban development, or sprawl as they like to call it, is habitat for cars, not people". Like they don't all live in houses. The fact is, planners can wish all they want, but they can't control or contain development. It will do what it has to do. And you can't predict its location with legos! Legos? Most people stop using Legos at around age 6. Oops, maybe I am onto something here.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Ben said...

The issue addressed is really more about how commercial development has pushed out into the suburbs. One detail that was not addressed in the article, but that would be of interest to you, is the effect the BRAC is having on Aberdeen, MD. One of the casualties of the BRAC was Ft. Monmouth in NJ. As a result, a number of US Army functions run out of Monmouth (CECOM in particular) are now moving to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which sits about halfway between Baltimore and Wilmington, DE on the Chesapeake Bay. A more detailed post on this subject will be coming soon. Stay tuned...


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