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Documents & Reports

Maryland State Planning Heads

63 Years of State Planning 1959-2022

​The history of State land use planning in Maryland goes back further than most states in the U.S. Although Maryland is 42nd among the 50 states in size, it is 19th in population and ranks fifth in population density.

As a result, the pressure to use Maryland’s land for a wide range of uses has been intense and ongoing – as has concern for the impact and location of those uses. The issues of uncontrolled growth, premature rural subdivision, loss of productive soils, strip growth, loss of forest land, loss of Bay fisheries, loss of public Bay access, the need to plan for infrastructure and other capital improvements and the need to acquire forest land and set goals for agricultural land preservation have been troubling state planning officials since the late 1930s! This according to the report of the State Planning Commission, entitled Five Years of State Planning, published in 1938.

A Maryland State Planning Timeline

1930's & 1940's: State Planning Begins

1933 - The Maryland General Assembly creates the first state planning commission in the country to coordinate Depression-era public works programs of the National Resources Planning Board and the Works Projects Administration.

During its first ten years, the Commission developed one of the first Capital Improvements Programs in the country, a mapping system covering the state, and a program to provide medical care for the indigent.

1938 - The commission publishes Five Years of State Planning, outlining the State’s vision for Maryland in 1970

1940 - The Commission establishes a committee on medical care and devotes much of its energy to public health concerns until the early 1960s.

1948 - The Baltimore Metropolitan District Planning and Coordinating Committee is established based on the Commission’s recommendations.

1950's: An Agency Established

1956 - The Commission on State Programs, Organization and Finance issues Improving State Planning in Maryland, which emphasizes the need to aid local jurisdictions, establish long range goals, strengthen centralized coordination of planning in the executive branch, and increase the areas of expertise and size of the state planning staff.

1959 - Newly passed legislation creates the State Planning Department, broadening its areas of concern to include the state’s water resources and the protection, development, and maintenance of Assateague Island.

This new state planning legislation provides the first mention of a State Development Plan by name.

1960's: An Agency Established

1961 - The Maryland Historical Trust is established, the first such state agency in the U.S. The Trust evolves into Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in 1966.

1965 - The Department completes the first mass transit study of the Baltimore metropolitan area.

1968 - The Commission and others complete an inventory of tidal and inland wetlands; comprehensive regulation of these lands occurs in 1970.

1969 - The State Planning Department becomes a cabinet-level agency and is renamed the Maryland Department of State Planning.

1970's: Growth of Local and State Planning

1970 - The Tidal Wetlands Act requires a State permit for the alteration of tidal wetland and requires mitigation of any wetland loss.

1971 - The state begins paying for public school construction and modernization. The Department provides projections of school enrollment to support this effort.

1974 - The Land Use Act of 1974 authorizes the Secretary of the Department to designate areas of critical state concern and allows the Department to express the State’s viewpoint in local land use decisions.

1976 - Maryland enacts a state income tax incentive for the rehabilitation of historic properties.

1977 - The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation is created, leading to the preservation of almost 270,000 acres through 2008.

1980's: Addressing Land Use & the Environment

1981 - The Department designates 57 areas of unique character (wetlands and rail services designated areas) for preservation, conservation, and utilization.

1984 - The Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Act is the first time State and local governments jointly address the impacts of land development on habitat and aquatic resources in the Bay. The act designates all lands within 1,000 feet of tidal waters or adjacent tidal wetlands as critical areas.

1984 - MDSP publishes the landmark report, Maryland’s Future … The Next Fifty Years​, documenting the proceedings of the Futures Conference held on October 27, 1983 in Baltimore, MD.

1985 - State legislation creates a process for historic preservation review of state projects, permits, licenses, and financial assistance.

1987 - The Chesapeake Bay Agreement starts an interstate effort to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

1988 - The Department becomes the Maryland Office of Planning.

1989 - The Non-Tidal Wetlands Act requires a state permit for alterations of non-tidal wetlands.

1990's: The Smart Growth Era Begins

1992 - The Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Act establishes “seven visions” (later eight) to be incorporated into local plans. The visions address where development should occur, lands and resources to be protected, streamlining of regulations to achieve the plans goals, and adequate public facilities, infrastructure, and funding to achieve the Visions.

1997 - The Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Acts establishes Priority Funding Areas 
(growth areas where state funds would be targeted), the Rural Legacy preservation program, incentives to clean-up brownfields, Live Near Your Work incentives, and Job Creation Tax Credits.

2000's: Today and Looking Forward

2000 - The Maryland Office of Planning is renamed the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP).

2000 - MDP and the Department of Housing and Community Development create “Smart Codes” to facilitate the preservation of historic structures, encourage infill in traditional neighborhoods and allow the creation of mixed use, high density neighborhoods.

2001 - The GreenPrint Program is created, preserving over 22,000 acres of the Maryland’s most valuable ecological land.

2006 - HB 1141 requires counties and municipalities to adopt a Water Resources Element and municipalities to adopt a Municipal Growth Element in their comprehensive plans by October 1, 2009

2006 - HB 2 requires counties seeking certification of their farmland preservation programs to designate Priority Preservation Areas (PPA) and include a PPA element in their comprehensive plans.

2007 - HB 773 creates the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development.

2009 - Three significant planning bills are signed into law as part of the Smart, Green & Growing legislative package: The Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009; The Smart Growth Indicators; and Planning Visions.  This package strengthened local government comprehensive plans; directed local jurisdictions and the State to collect smart growth measures and establish a statewide land use goal; and updated the planning process to include 12 new planning visions.


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