I used to write about the Internet and telecommunications for a living, but urban planning frequently seems even tougher to describe. I’m not sure why. I often felt that the tech community never figured out that acronyms were meant to make things easier to remember, not harder. RSS feeds? JPEGs? VOIP? DSL? Really? Planners don’t traffic in such odd terminology, but the field can still seem hard to convey. It’s rooted in data and science and seeks to analyze large-scale cause and effect over a long span. That’s why I was excited when a colleague forwarded me a link to Saga City, a video produced by a Quebec firm called Vivre en Ville. It depicts — in cartoon form, of all things — how suburban sprawl occurs, why it hastens climate change and why planning is crucial to confront that challenge.
May 8, 2012
April 27, 2012
More than 1,300 folks have “played” GamePlanMaryland since we launched it last December. It’s a sim game to help communicate the trade-offs in more sustainable land-use. If you want generous parking areas, for example, you’re likely to face greater pollution from the runoff from all the impervious surface. And it’s hard to have both quieter neighborhoods and better transit access simultaneously, since public transit is prohibitively expensive when people are spread out. With the help of the design firm MetroQuest, we wanted to show the “guns versus butter” theory of environmental planning: To gain something, you probably have to give up something. We launched the app the week that Governor O’Malley accepted “PlanMaryland” as the first growth plan for the state of Maryland toward the end of last year. We have visited every county in the state since then to work with local governments on mapping for PlanMaryland. We are also working with other state agencies so they can align their approach toward smarter growth during the coming year.
April 24, 2012
Our webmaster Cindy, with help from a cast of folks here, built a great resource page chronicling the La Plata tornado, which occurred 10 years ago this week, and the town’s successful recovery. There’s a lot to learn from a planning perspective. And toggling between the aftermath and post-rebuilding imagery is just plain fascinating.
April 10, 2012
Comprehensive Plans, Land Use, Planning, Population, Smart Growth, Transportation Charles County, La Plata, Maryland, maryland department of planning, smart growth, tornado, vision plan, War of 1812, William Eckman 1 Comment
William F. Eckman remembers the late afternoon of April 28, 2002 as bright and sunny in his yard in La Plata. Forecasts on radio and TV described a storm moving through but predicted it farther north in Charles County. The sky did change and he noticed that, strangely, debris began to swirl about off the ground. But Eckman, who had been mayor of the town for 17 years at that point, said he didn’t think much of it until his town manager called. “Mayor,” he said, “we just got hit and hit hard.” All seemed fairly normal on Eckman’s block, although he was startled when his neighbor said he’d heard the hospital in town had lost water pressure and he wondered whether something had happened to the town’s water tower. “No, the tower can’t be down,” the mayor said.
He learned very shortly that indeed the strongest tornado in recorded history in Maryland struck La Plata that day. It claimed four lives, including a heart attack victim. The tornado – measured at F4 on the Fujita Scale, the second-highest intensity — carved a path about three football fields wide through the middle of town. More
January 20, 2012
Comprehensive Plans, Land Use, PlanMaryland, Planning, Smart Growth Chesapeake Bay, governor o'malley, Maryland State Builders Association, NAIOP, National Center for Smart Growth, planmaryland, smart growth, Urban Land Institute, urban planning 2 Comments
The National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, College Park, issued a report this week that concluded the smart growth framework that Maryland put in place more than a decade ago has been insufficient and offered suggestions for improvement.
“Barriers to Development Inside Priority Funding Areas: Perspectives of Planners, Developers, and Advocates” was based on interviews with 47 Maryland planners, developers and land-use advocates. More