2015 National Planning Excellence Awards: Planning Agency

Maryland Department of Planning

Baltimore, Maryland


For five decades, the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) has been at the forefront in the development of innovative community planning for Maryland communities. This effort evolved into development of Maryland's groundbreaking "Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation" legislation focused on sprawl reduction and sustainable community planning.

Guided by a set of comprehensive policy initiatives, a governor-appointed cabinet secretary, and legislative mandates, MDP is helping to transform Maryland into one of the most progressive states in the pioneering of state and local planning programs to achieve smart growth.


MDP's 150-person staff is tasked with policy development, analysis, and quality planning for local and state projects and infrastructure programming. The department provides technical expertise and specialized assistance to Maryland's local governments in local land use, environmental planning, regional and small area transportation analysis, demographic analysis and forecasting, public school location and funding, energy planning, historic preservation, and the use of sustainable community development tools. In Western Maryland, MDP serves as the conduit between local governments and the Appalachian Regional Commission for grants and development of recreational resources.

MDP also serves as the state's data center, adding value to U.S. Census statistics through data forecasting and analysis. MDP also hosts Maryland's state historic preservation office and archaeological conservation laboratory and the innovative Maryland Maritime Archeology Program.

MDP provides data-driven, sustainable solutions for increasingly complex land use decision making. MDP's data analysis on the expansion of sprawl development patterns across the state led to adoption of the 1997 Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Act by the Maryland General Assembly. This set a new national standard in urban development and sprawl reduction policies. Through this act, Maryland targets funding to priority funding areas and oversees one of the nation's most effective farmland protection programs.

In 2009, MDP championed the Smart, Green & Growing legislative package that expanded sustainability measures with a statewide commitment to quality local master planning. In 2012, MDP was integral in the passage of legislation that limits the proliferation of residential subdivision on septic systems that displaces farms and forest lands effectively curbing a source of residential pollution to streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

MDP's latest guidance document covers transit-oriented development, providing a tool for those interested in creating walkable, dense, mixed-use neighborhoods near transit.


The success of these and other planning initiatives would not be possible without extensive outreach and engagement by MDP with all public and affected stakeholders in counties and communities. In an ongoing commitment to local outreach, MDP hosts quarterly planning roundtables to engage citizen and professional planners and elected leaders from around the state on smart growth, sustainable development and preservation issues.

The department generates content for a Smart Growth Maryland blog; sends out weekly news briefings on issues relevant to planners and the state at large; offers training for planning commissioners and boards of appeals members; and produces storytelling tools, video, interactive "story" maps complete with implementation guidelines, and case studies for local communities.


Smart Growth Maryland

The Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Act (1984) requiring local governments to lessen pollution and habitat loss was the first of a series of bay protections.