REGIONALISM:

1000 Friends Unites Groups to Fight Sprawl Effectively

by Mitchell Strohminger
     On Monday, October 26, 150 Marylanders gathered at the revitalized site of the American Can Company in Canton for the first annual meeting of 1000 Friends of Maryland. The goal of 1000 Friends is to serve as a unifying force for Maryland’s plethora of anti-sprawl grassroots groups.
     The event brought together a wide range of likely allies in the fight to preserve Maryland’s environment from over-development. Organizations represented included historic preservationists, regional cooperationists, transportation activists, and environmentalists. A wide array of maps and other displays clearly showed the environmental crises in many parts of the state, especially in the densely populated Baltimore-Washington corridor.
     Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, told the crowd, “We [1000 Friends] aren’t anti-growth. We want to continue growing in Maryland, but in a more cost-effective and sane manner.” She said the meeting place in the Can Company building was appropriate. “It shows that development can be done in an existing structure rather than building a new one.”
     The keynote speaker of the evening was Henry Richmond, founder of 1000 Friends of Oregon. “We started out as a watchdog group to look at the implementation of the 1975 innovative land-use laws designed to curb sprawl. [We] needed to secure interpretations of the new laws. I see that within the current Maryland Smart Growth legislation there are some holes which need to be filled. For example, what is a ‘connector road’? [1000 Friends] will need to defend [its] interpretation of the law. 1000 Friends of Maryland is in a good position to provide critical leadership.”
     He said one way to protect the gains made in the anti-sprawl campaign is through litigation. “Litigation was used [by the 1000 Friends of Oregon] one or two times as a way to protect precedent from future lawsuits.” He added that persuasion has been another important tool.
     He used statistics in order to highlight the need for groups like 1000 Friends. For example, in Portland the population is expected to grow by 35% in the next 20 years, yet the growth of the metropolitan area is only slated to grow by 4%.
     Within this same time frame, he said, the average city in Michigan will have a population growth of 11% but an increase in land size by between 63% to 82%. Such a huge gap between population growth and land-use increase is typical for most American cities, he said.
     Groups represented at the meeting included the Citizens Planning and Housing Association’s, Committee on the Region; The Baltimore Historical Trust; Friends of Harford County; Governor Glendening’s Smart Growth Initiative; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; the Washington Regional Network; and The Baltimore Area Transit Association (BATA).
     A BATA member talked about the proposed “south Baltimore connector,” which would run from Camden Yards to Canton. “Most people don’t realize that the City is studying the feasibility of a people mover as the method of transportation [from Canton to Camden Yards],” he said. BATA believes that a better solution would be a trolley or an additional light rail connection, as both would be able to use existing light rail tracks and facilities.
     CPHA’s Committee on the Region focuses on regional cooperation, and on reducing the economic disparities between City and County. Their brochure graphically depicts the “donut’” effect, in which the poorer areas are left blighted and under-inhabited (‘the hole’), surrounded by the wealthier suburbs (‘the donut’). Matthew Weinstein, CPHA’s Regional Project policy associate, said, “Because there hasn’t been much regional cooperation [between Baltimore and the surrounding counties], the ‘hole’ in the ‘donut’ has been growing to the point that the older suburbs are experiencing the same problems as the City. The good news is that regional cooperation offers the opportunity to bring City and suburban neighborhoods together in a new political coalition to create community conservation initiatives.”
     He added, “Regional transportation planning is critical if you don’t want sprawl.”
     Friends of Harford County recently made headlines for its tenacious and well-coordinated effort to stop rampant development. Chris Cook, a spokesman for the group, said that the petition effort to control development in Harford County failed to get on the November ballot because “it was too specific.” He continued, “[Pro-development] advocates printed fliers that looked just like ours and used them to make it look like it was us who supported their efforts [to over-develop the county].”
     Friends of Harford County also made flyers available from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MDLCV) about “Sauerbrey’s Abysmal Environmental Record.” The Republican gubernatorial candidate’s legislative record includes voting against Clean Air programs, recycling programs, and Clean Water bills.
     1000 Friends has a three-pronged strategy for getting its anti-sprawl message out. It intends to inform Maryland legislators, state administrators, and the general public about the dangers of rampant development. They have presented the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), with a 10-point statement of principles, calling for the consideration of alternative transportation methods; improving and expanding the transit systems in Maryland--including connecting Baltimore with Annapolis and Washington via transit; removing the 50% farebox recovery requirement; and spending federal funds in a more efficient, pollution-reducing manner.
     Other areas in which the 1000 Friends seeks to improve the quality of life include making sure the Smart Growth initiative is respected, investing in existing communities, protecting the state’s natural resources, and promoting innovative fiscal policies including regional tax-sharing schemes.
     In Maryland, supporters of an anti-sprawl action organization like 1000 Friends appear to be entering the political arena just in time. The State’s population is expected to increase by a whopping 1 million people in the next 20 years, and most will settle in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Such an increase will surely put new strains on the environment unless Maryland grows smart.

RESOURCES:
     1000 Friends of Maryland: P.O. Box 4617, Baltimore MD 21212. Call 1-888-4GRO-SMART
     Citizens Planning & Housing Association (CPHA): Call 410-539-1369 and contact Mary Matheny, Regional Project Director, if you are interested in membership/volunteering.
     Friends of Harford County: Call 1-410-838-7333 or by e-mail foharford@juno.com Website: http://personals.corpnettech.com/foh/
     Maryland League of Conservation Voters: Website: www.mdlcv.org
     Smart Growth Initiative: Call John Frece at 410-260-8112 or check out their website www.op.state. md.us/smartgrowth
     Baltimore Area Transit Assoc. (BATA):Call 410-327-6119 or: accessys@smart.net.us
     Baltimore Heritage, Inc.: Preserving architectural & historic sites. 410-625-2585.
     Baltimore County Historic Trust: Preservationist society. Call 410-832-1812.
     Preservation Maryland: Call 410-685-2886 or: PM@Preserve.MD.org
     Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Call 410-269-0481 or visit www.savethebay.cbf.org


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This story was published on Nov. 4, 1998.