Property rights vs. Smart Growth: It's about time someone stuck up for farmers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Carroll County Landowners and Homeowners Association greatly appreciates The Sun's article of Oct. 12 ("The defender of property"), focusing on the efforts we have made to procure a fair shake for the farmers and homeowners of Carroll County.

Staff writer John Murphy was accurate in all that he reported (with maybe the exception of calling me "squat"). I am writing this letter to point out a few major issues that I discussed with him, but apparently due to space constraints and/or editing did not make it into the article.

First, let me start by explaining that my role throughout the history of the association has simply been to help a group of dedicated, but often frustrated, farmers get outtheir message to the public and to officials who are in a position to address their concerns. I am in no way the message, but merely one of many messengers.

The farmers are the backbone of our county. Almost everything that we all love about Carroll County has been provided by them.

It is to my benefit as well as every other Carroll countian to protect this farming community. A very small, selfish, vocal group which chooses to publicly attack these farmers with constant complaints about their tractors on the roads, the smell from their farms, the occasional farming accident, the noise from their equipment, plus constant whining that their personal aesthetic views somehow supersedes the farmer's right to develop even 1 acre of his land.

The reason that our group has enjoyed many successes is that our views are consistent with a citizenry that is overwhelmingly conservative and fair-minded. After the county took 95 percent of the potential development rights away from the farmers in 1978, most farmers and nonfarmers alike agree that enough is enough.

The growth problem in Carroll County is not caused by farmers trying to develop portions of the 5 percent that they have left, but rather by large developers jamming townhouses, duplexes, apartments and other high-density structures on every piece of non-agricultural land they can get their hands on.

The county planning department calls this "good planning." The governor calls it "smart growth."

In reality, it is the duplication of the types of neighborhoods in Baltimore and other metropolitan counties that have failed so miserably and produced the mass flight that counties such as Carroll, Harford and Frederick are now trying to deal with. Our success, and the failure of those who have opposed us, is a result of our ability to point out the obvious: Making us look more like Baltimore is not the way to solve Carroll County's problems.

Edward Primoff, Woodbine

The writer is founder and president of the Carroll County Landowners and Homeowners Association.

I would like to thank you for the article on Carroll County's own "advocate for farmers," Ed Primoff. While I found the article informative and entertaining, the piece depicted issues dear to me and my family.

Although I am not a farmer, I believe there is a need to protect the farmers' interest in this county and throughout the state.

I loved the "congested rats" analogy that Mr. Primoff used to parallel impacts of "Smart Growth."

Quite simply, Smart Growth isn't smart. I'm part of the large group of Carroll countians who are not farmers, but who support the causes and efforts of the Landowners' Association. Once again, it is nice to see your coverage of one of the beautiful counties in our state.

Janet Stevens, Sykesville

Thank goodness for citizens such as Ed Primoff. All our rights and freedoms are under assault by government. I was particularly impressed that Mr. Primoff was against Gov. Parris N. Glendening's so-called "Smart Growth" program.

As every citizen should know, there is a plan in Maryland to put land planning on a state level in addition to the existing land planning by municipal and local governments.

Legislation was passed known as "Smart Growth" opening the door for this sort of program. If Mr. Glendening gets his way the regulations so far are just the beginning.

Mr. Glendening's political ambitions, to get a cabinet post in a future Democratic administration after his term in office, are fueling his "Smart Growth" policies, some believe. The governor's political ambitions should be secondary to the rights of the citizens of Maryland.

Donald B. W. Messenger, Laurel

I was pleased to read the Oct. 12 article about Edward Primoff and his efforts to protect the farmers and landowners in Carroll County.

It is gratifying to know that someone of Mr. Primoff's stature and experience is devoting time and resources to protecting farmers, many of whom have resided in Carroll County for decades. I share his concern for these citizens, who have contributed to that county for most of their lives.

In recent years, a combination of economic factors, weather conditions and changing demographics have altered and undermined the ability to make a living by farming. Many have incured substantial debt while trying to do so. These individuals have earned the right to use their land as their retirement fund.

Your article mentioned the problems encountered by farm machinery traveling on the road.

I have witnessed many farmers attempting to co-exist on routes 97 and 108 along with hostile drivers creating potential hazards as they careen around them, tailgate or express their anger in other ways.

Unfortunately, this scenario has become a metaphor for the problems being created for the farmers generally. I applaud Mr. Primoff for his actions and support his unrelenting efforts to work on behalf of this community of citizens.

Sharon Crain, Baltimore

I recently read with great interest John Murphy's article concerning Edward Primoff. Defending the farmer is a must and I applaud his efforts.

It is so sad these devoted preservationists are excoriated when circumstances obligate them to sell the farm.

Especially ironic is the fact that many of the circumstances that make farming no longer profitable are a direct result of regulations enacted by people seeking to preserve the open space.

A fact often ignored is that no one wants farmland preserved more than the farmers. To many, the sale of the farm is a traumatic event. Yet after years, and in many cases after generations, when farming becomes unprofitable, many oppose the loss of open space.

Suppose you put money into a retirement account or pension for 50 years and then were not allowed to transform the asset to income. How upset would you be?

Transfer-development rights, Smart Growth legislation and land preservation are all code words for denying the landowner the right to live off the land that can no longer support him.

More attention needs to be paid to the plight of the farmer. Mr. Murphy's article was a great start.

W. Neil Zurowski, Phoenix

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