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Local Governments, Businesses, and Environmentalists on Maryland's Eastern Shore Call for a Regional Vision for Smart Growth

July 2000

Just like their big-city counterparts, towns on the largely rural Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay are beginning to confront the adverse effects of sprawl development. At a recent roundtable held at the Wye Research and Education Center in the heart of the area, local governments, businesses, and environmentalists called for a regional vision for Smart Growth. Stressing the need for improved communication and cooperation among localities, the high-level participants laid out a blueprint for addressing common concerns on how to balance regional needs for economic development with environmental protection.

“The Chesapeake Bay region has experienced significant growth during the past thirty year and continues to grow at a rapid rate,” said ELI Senior Attorney James McElfish, Director of the Institute’s Sustainable Use of Land Center. “Population in the area is expected to increase by 3 million people over the next two decades. The resulting demand for new development, often low-density and single-use, has led to a significant loss of open land and the emergence of pollution concerns usually only experienced in large urban regions.”

Five counties and towns served as the focus of the dialogue on town-county and regional cooperation. The 38 participants included a broad range of stakeholders: state officials, town managers, local planning staff and planning commission members, local business association representatives, local and state environmental organization representatives, farmers and farm bureau representatives, and academics.

“The dialogue provided an opportunity for participants to put forth their visions for Smart Growth in the region,” said McElfish. “The discussion concentrated on minimizing impacts on sensitive lands and waters while maintaining a resource-based economy. Participants were also concerned with keeping intact the rural, historic character of their communities. A consensus emerged that only regional cooperation among all interests — governmental, business, and environmental — can guide development to meet these concerns.”

The conference, “Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities: Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” was convened by the Environmental Law Institute, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and the Town Creek Foundation.

The findings of the meeting are summarized in a Roundtable Report titled Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities: Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The report is only available as a PDF file and can be downloaded for free from ELI’ at http://www.elistore.org/reports_detail.asp?ID=10956. For press copies, please contact pressrequest@eli.org.