The state of Maryland is intervening in three local development projects, as part of Gov. Parris Glendening’s effort to curb sprawl in the state.

The state Department of Planning is opposing plans for a new Wal-Mart store near Chestertown in Kent County and is supporting plans for new residential developments in Gaithersburg and downtown Annapolis.

Although state officials cannot approve or reject the projects, under a rarely employed state law they can participate in local projects by lending their expertise in planning and legal issues. Glendening announced in May that the state would begin using the 1974 law to intervene in some projects.

“Each of the three cases that the Department of Planning is intervening in has long-term implications for Maryland’s ‘smart growth’ policies,” Glendening said. “We are intervening to oppose sprawl and support local communities, to support transit-oriented development and to show that increased density must be accompanied by quality design.”

In each of the three cases, the local governments welcomed state scrutiny. But “that doesn't mean the day won’t come when we get involved in something thornier,” said Roy Kienitz, secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning.

Jeffrey Thompson, a land-use attorney representing Wal-Mart, said the state should stay out of the planning process. “Local government is better handled by local officials,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “It goes from a local zoning issue to a statewide political issue.”