A plot to stop growth and drive farmers out ...
Well, I see that our two tax-and-spend commissioners are at it again. The stacking of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission with low-growth people is another peg in the demise of the farmer in this county.
First, they take away your property rights without paying for them.
Then, they fail to provide for services and allow rampant growth all over the county; build educational monuments to ignorance; saddle farmers with a $5,000 per lot impact fee; inflate the country work force beyond belief and jack up taxes to pay for their failures (past and present).
Now on a dubious low-growth program, they stack the boards with members with ties to the Sierra Club (which caused a depression in two states over saving an endangered species which turned out not to be endangered after all), and with close ties to a no-growth town manager and a farmer who has no vested interest in his property because he already sold out his property rights.
They do not want our land. County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown's idea (at a meeting with the Carroll County Landowners Association) that we should just sell our valuable farms to other farmers is ludicrous. He also tried to dodge the blame by pinning it on the real estate and banking industry, which provide the few jobs in the county.
Now to the positive side. The people who are working on the new master plan have an opportunity to correct a few wrongs with the old master plan.
First, they can change the policy on agricultural zoning from not changing the zoning of a property when it is developed to one which changes the zoning of the property that is developed. Even though the hundreds of new houses that were allowed under the old master plan were built on agriculturally zoned property, the zoning was not changed to reflect the new use.
Second, they can determine the areas of most dense population and turn them into towns or cities or special areas (whatever you want to call them) to tax citizens for the services they require.
Third, the new planning and zoning board (or Board of Education) could figure out a way to reduce the education budget. The building of new schools should be standardized, not some architect's monument to himself. Maybe some of the excess funds could be spent on teachers, books and materials.
Fourth, the county needs to come up with a progressive property tax that taxes new houses at a higher rate than older ones to raise the revenue for the new services that they require. The $5,000 impact fee doesn't do that.
Fifth, provide payment (transferable development rights) to the farmers who have had their property rights taken from them.
Your editorial was correct: The commissioners should have taken their time about appointing the members to the planning and zoning board. Instead we get more of the same same, old dictatorial and arrogant attitudes despite promises.
I see homebuilder president Gregory S. Dorsey and Greater Westminster Development Corp. head James H. Dulany IV are opposed to the efforts of Carroll County commissioners Richard T. Yates and W. Benjamin Brown in removing one of the detriments to managed growth in Carroll, that is planning commission member Robert Lennon.
If they're opposed, Messrs. Yates and Brown must have been on the right track. These guys will only be satisfied when all the county is paved over.
Well here we go, as the never-ending escapade of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission moves in yet another new direction. The citizens stand in shocked silence. What new twist will come forward to change the face of this county?
It was time for David Duree to move on, as most citizens will agree he had deserted us awhile back with the approval for 240-plus homes in South Carroll out of the view of the taxpayers.
Now here comes Robin Frazier to do battle with the citizens. We pray she will be kind to us. Please don't overcrowd our schools and roads. Please don't overextend our incomes. Please save what's left so we can live in a country-setting. As another 152 housing units come on line in South Carroll, we pray for relief.
... We didn't need to 'plot' on growth, Brown replies
Upon returning from medical leave, I was amazed to find that Robert Lennon's removal from Carroll's planning commission was being widely portrayed as an effort by Dick Yates and me to "get" the gentleman. A review of recent history, and a little math, will clearly show that there was no need for Mr. Lennon to be removed in order for us to further our growth control aims.
At the time of the 1994 election, Carroll had experienced 25 years of rapid and largely unconstrained growth. Our planning commission had come to be universally viewed as a rubber stamp for land developers.
Three of the commission's five seats were held by Donald Dell; his former attorney, Mr. Lennon, and his former campaign treasurer, Robin Frazier. Both Mr. Lennon and Ms. Frazier had long represented development interests: Mr. Lennon as a real estate attorney, and Ms. Frazier as a mortgage loan officer.
Dick Yates and I from our first days in office settled upon a strategy to change the direction of the commission during our term of office. The strategy is both bold and simple, and has been adhered to from the outset.
First, we elected Dick Yates to replace Donald Dell on the commission. Second, we enlarged the commission to seven members as allowed by state statute. Third, as the terms of Dennis Bowman and Zeno Fisher expired, in 1995 and 1996 respectively, replacements would be named.
Simple math shows that Dick Yates and I will have appointed five of seven members, plus the alternate member, by Nov. 1, at the latest. My point is that we had no need to remove Mr. Lennon. His "all growth is good" views are already decidedly in the minority.
In truth, Mr. Lennon was dismissed because Carroll's ethics commission concluded that he had clearly violated the county's ethics ordinance. It may seem extreme to some, in this age of situational ethics, but others of us believe that high ethical standards are the minimum requirement of those who hold an office of public trust.
How the courts will rule on Mr. Lennon's challenges, I do not know. If we hear that it no longer is sufficient to simply expect that appointees will keep their private interests separate from their public obligations, then we'll write an ordinance filled with however many "thou shalt nots" as the present age requires.
Now, in conclusion, I must confess that I smile when I hear the development interests cry that Dick Yates and I are stacking the planning commission -- as if it weren't previously stacked in their favor by Donald Dell.
Call it what you like: Dick Yates and I are doing what we were elected to do, to see that the next 25 years in Carroll produce something better than "more of the same."
W. Benjamin Brown
The writer is a Carroll County commissioner.
What becomes of Md. racing, Mr. Columnist?
While some of us in the industry are working hard to get horse racing back on the front page of the Sports section and on the 6 and 11 o'clock news, we (Maryland racing) have columnists who do not have a single idea how many people or businesses it takes to get a horse ready to run (from birth to the age of two). It is the media, not the public or the fans, who feel racing is not worthy enough to use up precious newspaper ink. One columnist even suggests he has the straight talk about slots at the track.
Perhaps it is the job of the columnist to do the needed research on these topics (how casino gambling would affect the Maryland horse racing industry and how the demise of that industry would then affect the 20,000 employees directly involved and the hundreds of businesses that make a living thanks to racing) rather than getting the information from a letter to the editor. Nevertheless, here are the facts:
Delaware Park, with its newly installed slot machines bringing in millions of dollars of additional revenue, is a threat to the 253-year-old Maryland racing tradition. Aksarben Race Track in Nebraska was forced to close when faced with competition from slots at nearby racetracks throughout Iowa. However, Iowa-based Prairie Meadows, in bankruptcy just a few years ago, now shows huge profits due to its marriage with slots.
There is a November referendum scheduled that, if passed, would permit the installation of video lottery terminals at Charles Town Race Track in West Virginia, currently owned by Bryant Development Company and Penn National Gaming, which also owns Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania.
Legislation is expected to be introduced shortly authorizing slots at Pennsylvania tracks, and it is widely believed that this legislation has an excellent chance of passage in the next 12 months. Place the pins on the map and see where that leaves Maryland.
Yes, a few years ago R. D. Hubbard and Peter Angelos did show interest in the Maryland tracks, but that was a time when slots had a possibility of passing through Maryland legislation. Expanded gaming will reduce the number of tracks left in America. Those without will be left to die. Should Pimlico and Laurel be among them, Mr. Columnist? Can you tell me where a person who has worked on the track all of his life can get a job?
Robert J. Lillis
Pub Date: 9/08/96