COLLEGE PARK – Maryland must unite environmentally sensitive development techniques to minimize sprawl and its accompanying vices, state representatives said Wednesday at the nation’s first conference on Low Impact Development held at the University of Maryland.
“You’ve got to bring all these things together so that in the end you have healthy communities,” said Richard Hall, manager of environmental planning for the Maryland Department of Planning. Hall spoke of uniting Smart Growth, low-impact development and an environmentally sound process known as green building.
Low-impact development, its proponents say, can minimize pollution from storm water runoff through land preservation, pavement reduction and more numerous retention basins, which are homemade bogs that serve as natural filters for runoff. The subject linked developers, biologists and architects from across the country this week at the conference.
Maryland’s presentation asserted that Smart Growth, which concentrates development, needs low-impact techniques and green building to effectively reduce harm to waterways.
Citing a decline in Maryland’s city population due to sprawl and a projected 100 percent increase in land use by 2020, Hall said, “Suffice it to say we’ve had a lot of growth outside growth areas.”
As population increases and moves outward from city centers, such development techniques become paramount, the Maryland group said.
“We are expanding greater than our population,” said Sean McGuire, a natural resources planner at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to the backdrop of numerous images depicting the web of Maryland development extending well beyond metropolitan areas.
In addition to site and location management, he said, developers must look to such materials as recycled insulation and non-toxic paints to reduce the impact of civilization.
“It’s healthier for us . . . but it’s also a better building, and it’s structurally sound,” he said.
Though proponents of low-impact development say methods like rain gardens and multiple dry swales are cost-effective, some in the audience said they were concerned it will be difficult to convince officials and developers to abandon traditional methods.
“There are those who are just sort of set in their ways,” said Larry Coffman, associate director for the Prince George’s Department of Environmental Resources. But he said storm water runoff is responsible for about one-quarter of the pollution reaching the Chesapeake Bay, and practices like rain gardens can help filter that runoff.
When he first started in the field 12 years ago, Coffman said, “This was an area that no one had really explored before.”
The conference came to Prince George’s in part because of the county’s history as a low-impact pioneer, said Stuart Freudberg, department of environmental programs director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which helped sponsor the event.
He dubbed Coffman the “internationally recognized guru of Low Impact Development,” and called his methods natural and economically sound. – 30 – CNS-9-22-04