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July 17, 2007

The Growing Chasm

Farrell Keough

Our "smart growth" Board of County Commissioners is at it again. Rather than a thorough and thoughtful approach, the heavy hand of government approach is once again the chosen tool of enforcement.

The proposed change to the Resource Conservation Zoning will increase the minimum acreage size from five acres per dwelling to a whopping 25 acres per dwelling. As one savvy representative noted, this may well be a solution looking for a problem.

Let's back up and look at a couple of examples before delving into this new issue, shall we? The Developer, (note the capital "D;" that connotes the Demon aspect of the word) requested an extension on the final build out. The roads, schools, water, and other infrastructure needed time to acclimate to increase in residents. A slower, more thoroughly planned build out would have allowed for alternatives in design and time for the infrastructure to catch up.

Rather than the deliberative process that should have accompanied such a request, the commissioners simply denied it in a rather vindictive manner. This means that we all get to face yet another rapid increase in new wait times on our surrounding roads and further school overcrowding issues. Smart growth policies in action.

Then, many will remember the new requirement for town officials to take an oath before presenting to this august board. Rather than focus on the need to build a relationship between the towns and the county, this board decided to distance itself from these representatives.

Implications of falsehoods and outright lies were forwarded as legitimizing this requirement. Now, those who speak before this commission on behalf of their community must approach the members under the scrutiny of being guilty before proven innocent. In other words, relationships have been walled rather than bridged.

And now, this newest attempt to over-regulate a group this county holds in high esteem - our farmers. The rationale for this proposed change to the Resource Conservation Zoning is based in part upon the following:

"Over the years, the (commissioners) have received requests to rezone 'Agricultural-remainder' parcels to RC. On their face, these requests seem inexplicable, since the RC zone would seem more restrictive. The incentive for the requests is that Ag remainders generally have no further subdivision rights. However, if an Ag remainder is rezoned to RC, the land may be further subdivided into as many five acre lots as other land use regulations will allow. This proposal will remove some of the incentive to rezone Ag remainders to RC."

Can you imagine? A fellow owns reasonable parcel of land. He has two or three children and desires to pass this land onto them. Each gets a five acre parcel on which to build a reasonable home and raise their family. A five acre plot. Not a quarter acre or even a single acre, but a five acre plot.

This does not pose a tremendous environmental hazard, nor does it pose a serious threat to the existing infrastructure. It is simply passing the land onto the children in smaller, but still sizeable plots. But not for this "smart growth" board. Nope.

This is tantamount to a serious environmental issue. And, of course, neither our farmers, (stewards of the land since time in memoriam) or we environmentally bereft citizens can be left to our devices. This must be regulated and made very burdensome.

This change is being posited such that these plots, which have existed in their current form for years and years, must be four hundred percent larger or dire consequences will arise. Further, if one is to question or argue that point, then they are obviously either unaware, (ignorant) of how our environment works or simply uncaring.

Pretty slick, huh? Either you are too stupid to understand these complexities being dealt with by the new Board of County Commissioners, or you are selfish and don't care about the future for your children and grandchildren. I have met a number of farmers in my time, and not a one has desired to damage the land or pass on worthless legacy.

So, with this proposal on the table, what might we see as the fallout?

Well, to start, this small group of people in our midst, the farming community, may well find that the public is too worn down, too busy paying our taxes, and they get stiffed when hoping to generate support for their cause.

We will most assuredly see the next generation of farmers diminish as land is now very limited for passing on to the children. But, maybe most importantly, a person calling into one of our local radio shows noted that the "regular Joe" will no longer be able to afford purchasing a plot of land on which to build a small home and raise a family.

With such large plot sizes, very few people will be in a position to purchase any land within the county. This means that only those with substantial means will have a chance to be a homeowner in Frederick County. Either that or the mega-gigantic Farms-R-Us companies from out of state will have the means to purchase these tracts.

This proposal is still in its early stages. Hopefully, some reason will work its way into this process.

One of our local radio stations seems to be taking on the good fight to think through the repercussions, garner support, and determine the best way forward.

Other changes have already occurred under this new commission. With any luck, this change will actually come under good scrutiny, receive thoughtful public input, include specific rationale for its necessity, and finally either die on the vine, or become dramatically altered such that our farming community can enjoy the fruits of its labor and pass that tradition onto those who have an abiding interest in keeping the land the beautiful place it is.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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