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As Long as We Remember...

November 3, 2011

Costly and Burdensome Compliance

Blaine R. Young

One of the things candidates for county commissioner told the voters over and over during the 2010 campaign was that if elected they would stop treating the taxpayers like walking ATM machines. We’ve done it in Frederick County. Now somebody needs to do the same in Annapolis.


This new PlanMaryland initiative coming out of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office is what I really want to talk about. I don’t know how many are familiar with it; but when I read it, I almost got sick to my stomach. I decided somebody needed to speak up.


Since then, I’ve spoken at the Maryland Association of Counties Conference in Ocean City; I’ve helped organized an alliance of rural counties in Western and Central Maryland to oppose the plan; and we are looking to hire a consultant/lobbyist to help us in Annapolis. I’ve been debating Richard E. Hall, the Maryland Secretary of Planning, in the Baltimore Sun/Frederick News-Post and other newspapers on his plan to seize control of local government authority and turn it over to the bureaucrats in Annapolis.


Simply put, PlanMaryland is the biggest step yet toward the state government taking over all zoning decisions from the counties and the municipalities and dictating – from the top down – how and where we will grow. It’s clear when you read the document where the growth will be. It won’t be in Frederick County and it won’t be in Dorchester County or in any rural county in the state.


In my opinion the plan is a response to the fact that Baltimore City has lost over 300,000 residents over the last 50 years, and they want them back. When you combine PlanMaryland’s top-down land use controls with the governor’s proposal to prohibit any new developments on individual well and septic systems anywhere in the state, it is clear where all the new development will go.


Your children and grandchildren, as well as mine, will be told that it is illegal for them to build a house with a nice green yard near where their parents or grandparents live. But they will have plenty of opportunities to move to Baltimore City and live in high-rise apartment buildings near public bus stops and commute to an ever-increasing number of government jobs that will be necessary to implement all these new regulations. This is exactly what the liberal government in Annapolis wants this state to become, and those of us in the rural counties will be the casualties.


The people on the Eastern Shore probably know more about this kind of thing than anyone else in the state, because, in a way, for the last 30 years they had had their own PlanMaryland. There, most have had to deal with the critical areas law when trying to build something on their property. I have not found many who that have enjoyed the experience?


When the state came in and told them that they couldn’t build a house near waterways and marshes, many wondered what was the sense in having beautiful waterfront property if not for people to enjoy.


Well. Now, they are doing the same thing to us in Frederick County on our beautiful mountains and stream valleys. With PlanMaryland, you will have critical areas times two. Another level and more layers of bureaucracy to navigate if you want to do something with your property, or, God forbid, actually build a house on it.


There’s one more thing the state has tried to do to us over the last year. It has come up with new storm water management regulations which the state says we must implement, or they will get very mad at us. And it’s no small change.


County staff estimates that in Frederick County alone the cost of complying with these new water quality regulations will be between $3.5 and $5 billion. That’s right, that’s billions.


Why do we have to pay this? Because we followed their rules on storm water management for 50 years, and now they’ve decided that their rules were wrong, and they are sending us the bill to fix problems that we didn’t even know existed. If those problems actually exist, it was the state’s rules that caused the problems in the first place.


I’m going to tell you only one thing about that. In Frederick County, we’re not paying it. If we have to, we’re going to fight them in the courts and/or in the voting booths. Let them try to justify destroying our economy in the interest of promoting liberal scientific theories that no one has proven, and no one probably ever will.


One other thing that I figure I should mention since I am on a rant. The other organization, in addition to the Maryland Department of Planning, that has gotten very mad at me personally for speaking out, is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


Kim Coble, acting vice president, Environmental Protection & Restoration for the foundation, criticized me for objecting to the billions of dollars it was going to cost Frederick County to comply with these new regulations that still no one really understands. She told me that we should gladly pay that amount, or any other amount, because it was our new “pollution diet” that we had to stick to for our own good. That’s right, this official with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation talked to me like my mother did when she told me to eat my vegetables.


I don’t know much about this foundation, but when some officer of a group that’s supposedly is charged with watching out for the Chesapeake Bay comes into my county and tells me I’ve got to raise taxes on my citizens so that she can keep her nice cushy job, it doesn’t sit well with me, or with my colleagues on the Board of County Commissioners. I pity the people on the Eastern Shore for having to deal with this bunch on a much more regular basis than I do.


Finally, I want to mention the group We the People of MD, Inc. A group of concerned citizens formed this organization earlier this year and asked me to serve as honorary chairman as a private citizen. Once I realized what the group is all about, I could not refuse.


This is an educational organization that was formed to educate people and raise awareness of issues exactly like PlanMaryland, the septic system bill and the new storm water management regulations. It is a 501c4 corporation that is registered as a non-profit, and as such it won’t endorse or promote any particular candidates for office. But it will do its best to promote ideas that are friendly to the taxpayers, to smaller government.


You can learn more about this organization by visiting on the Internet.


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