The municipal planning process can intimidating and inequitable, but many of the most critical decisions that impact a community are made in the planning process. In order to create new resources for Maryland communities, planners, and citizens, Preservation Maryland and Smart Growth Maryland included this relevant topic in a free session of the virtual Old Line State Summit.

This free webinar with Q&A hosted by Preservation Maryland on August 13, 2020 explored ways to demystify the planning process with the goal of broader engagement for all citizens by examining how people interact with the process and how the process interacts with them – and what can be improved in the short and long term.

Watch the Webinar Recording:


Speakers for this session were Stephanie Smith, Assistant Director, Equity, Engagement and Communications, City of Baltimore, Department of Planning, and Allie O’Neill of the Neighborhood Design Center.

First attendees heard from Stephanie Smith about the equity lens that the City of Baltimore Planning Department uses being one of the first planning departments to have an equity officer. Using resources from the national Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the Department focuses their work on addressing and achieving:

  • Structural Equity: What historic advantages or disadvantages have affected residents in the given community?
  • Procedural Equity: How are residents who have been historically excluded from planning processes being authentically included in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the proposed policy or project?
  • Distributional Equity: Does the distribution of civic resources and investment explicitly account for potential racially disparate outcomes?
  • Transgenerational Equity: Does the policy or project result in unfair burdens on future generations?

The Baltimore Planning Department strives to achieve equity across the department, through the leadership of their Equity in Planning Committee, and also by extending understanding of these concepts through the Baltimore Planning Academy. Before Covid-19, the Baltimore Planning Academy hosted two cohorts per year with a free six-week course for citizens. The Department is now retooling the Academy for virtual offerings and anyone interested is encouraged to sign-up for updates on their website.

Next, we heard from Allie O’Neill about the approach that Neighborhood Design Center takes when working directly with citizens on community projects of all scales. NDC has offices in Baltimore City and Hyattsville, Maryland, and facilitates planning and design projects across the state – always sparked from within the community. The majority of the non-profit organization’s projects focus on design, place-based capacity building, community forestry, schoolyard greening, stormwater management, green infrastructure and landscape design, and arts spaces. Allie and her team bring together experts, volunteers, communities, and are often able to provide pro bono services to underserved communities.




Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith
Assistant Director
Baltimore CIty Department of Planning

Stephanie M. Smith is an Assistant Director in the Baltimore City Department of Planning and a member of the Maryland Bar. She is also a Delegate servings in the Maryland House of Delegates representing the 45th Legislative District of the state of Maryland which is located in east Baltimore City. She has spent the bulk of her professional career working to advance environmental health and justice through federal clean air policy. As a former congressional staffer, Stephanie worked on affordable housing and voting rights issues. Most recently, Stephanie served in the executive leadership of a professional association focused higher education and public health. Stephanie is an active member of the Greater Baltimore Urban League and Greater Baltimore Leadership Association. She has served on the boards of the Maryland-DC Audubon Society, Green 2.0, Greater Baltimore Leadership Association and the Redeemed Life Outreach Center. Stephanie is a proud graduate of Hampton University (BA), University of Delaware (MA) and Howard University School of Law (JD). She resides with her family in Baltimore City’s Middle East community.

Allie O'Neill

Allie O’Neill
Project Manager
Prince George’s County Office
Neighborhood Design Center

Allie believes design has the power to improve lives, spark civic participation, and create equitable, resilient communities. She sees community design and participatory processes as integral parts of design justice. Allie leads the Community Design Works program in Prince George’s County, connecting interested professionals and motivated community members to complete a wide range of projects. Since 2016, Allie has served on the board of the Association for Community Design. Outside of the office, you can find her biking around the DC area.