Smart Growth's Weak Link: An Analytical Evaluation of Water and Sewer Planning in Maryland


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Virginia Tech


Established low-density land use development patterns are characterized by expansive urbanization of the landscape. Concurrent effects associated with this present development pattern are declining existing urbanized areas, increasing conversion of open space, and high public service and infrastructure costs. Maryland's adoption of the Smart Growth legislative initiatives marks a potential advancement in the continuing evolution of government policies and programs designed to reduce inefficiencies by planning and managing growth at the state level. The Smart Growth programs are designed to augment, and work in concert with, previously implemented state growth management strategies, including local water and sewer and comprehensive planning. Maryland's ability to effectively direct and control growth in a desirable manner depends on the integrity and support of each of these planning program elements.

This thesis recognizes the considerable influence that the provision of water and sewer services exerts on developing urban growth patterns and the increased relevance of water and sewer planning with respect to Smart Growth legislation. Evaluative research, designed to measure water and sewer plan regulatory conformance, demonstrates that locally adopted water and sewer plans exhibit widespread deficiencies in terms of state agency regulatory requirements. The revealed extent and prevalence of water and sewer plan inadequacies indicate that these documents are incapable of providing state administrators the information necessary to accurately determine existing and planned municipal sewer service, as anticipated by the legislation.

The fact that legislation requires state agency approval of water and sewer plans prior to their adoption and that adopted plans exhibit deficiencies suggests problems associated with the current plan approval process. This thesis reviews the institutional procedures by which water and sewer plans are developed and approved in order to illustrate formal and informal organizational processes operable to water and sewer plan development. In addition, this thesis offers recommendations designed to enhance the current approval process, so as to lead to the development of effective water and sewer plans and facilitate successful implementation of related Smart Growth programs.



Water and Sewer Planning, Smart Growth, Growth Management, Planning, Sprawl