Trying to shed the tiers
Last spring environmental advocates claimed a victory with the passage of SB236. While it was dubbed the “Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012,” the reality is that for most rural areas of Maryland it will do neither.
But radical environmentalists like the 1000 Friends of Maryland characterized SB236 and other measures in this manner:
The 2012 legislative session will be remembered as one that provided critical new tools to clean up our waters and slow rural development. (Emphasis mine.)
While a number of rural counties have debated the effects of the bill, they’ve come to the realization that the state holds the trump card. That wasn’t lost on Delegate Mike McDermott, who noted shortly after the bill’s passage last spring:
(The bill) is a far cry from preserving agriculture and farming in Maryland. This is the great land grab by Maryland – hurting farmers in the name of preserving them.
It is reasonable to draw conclusions from this bill that this spells the end of rural development in Maryland. It will devalue farmland and place farmers who must borrow against their land for the next planting season to have land that is not worth anywhere near what it is in today’s market. This destructive bill is the camel’s nose under the tent.
This view is shared by a growing number of those aware of the insidious effect of government, especially in Cecil County. Their Campaign for Liberty group echoed McDermott’s remarks:
Senate Bill 236 (Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012) requires all counties to adopt a “tier map” that will severely limit future development. It is part of Governor O’Malley’s “Plan Maryland” legislation and the U.N. ‘s Agenda 21 program. SB236 will infringe on private property rights, decrease property values, and cause property taxes to go up.
Yet the state is also planning another route of attack on rural development, as a recent meeting in Wicomico County suggests. The September 2012 Growth Offset Policy Meeting was attended by several in the local TEA Party along with area planners and environmental groups, which may have been the target audience because the meeting was held during the day when most private-sector people work. It outlined a plan by the state to reduce nitrogen loads in Chesapeake Bay via a state-imposed nutrient cap. Of course, that cap is always subject to change, and the costs will be borne by the private sector but collected by a government agency which will obviously take their cut.
But we don’t know what their cut will be, nor do they. One meeting attendee related the following:
When I asked them how many additional state employees they were going to need to administer this program, they had no answer. When I asked how they were going to regulate such an obvious moneymaking, ripe for fraud scheme, they acknowledged it was a problem, but they had no answer. When others asked how the farmers were going to be able to finance their operations due to reduced land value to borrow against, they had no answer. When the NGOs asked how they could make money off this by cleaning up a stream and claiming the credits, they weren’t sure, but the greed was evident in every NGO there. When I asked how a developer could be sure that his credits that he purchased would be good from year to year (what if the farmer didn’t do a good job and they took his credits away from him?)…would the new homeowner be responsible for getting new credits??? How long did you have to buy credits for? (they thought maybe 30 years for a house). Everything was said with the caveat that it might change….
The sentence about how the NGOs could make money off this was telling – no one’s paying a farmer to clean a stream, but these advocacy groups look to make a mint. And the state of Maryland will only be only too happy to hand it over to them by taking it from a farmer or job creator.
Worth noting as well is that the Growth Offset Policy Meeting was organized by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and given “generous support” by the notoriously radical Town Creek Foundation, which is “dedicated to a sustainable environment.” “Sustainable” is a code word for controlled.
Yet the state of Maryland may not necessarily be the beneficiary. It may be but a serf to a United Nations master, according to this group which opposes the UN’s Agenda 21. They continue an evolution which has seen the doctrine of one’s home being their castle forfeited to county control through zoning, the subsequent loss of county power to the states, the states losing their grip on local issues to the federal government, and finally nations ceding sovereignty to a world government called the United Nations.
Step one of that evolution was pointed out in the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty’s critique of the bill. If rural land is devalued, it indeed reduces the landowner’s net worth at a greater rate than his property taxes went down – remember, in Maryland assessed land values are only set every three years so the farmer pays on a higher value at the higher property tax rate set when overall land valuation declines (as it will) but a county maintains constant yield. Of course, this is the secondary effect of the county doing the state’s bidding.
But rather than meekly submit to the request of Annapolis, some of Maryland’s rural counties are fighting the state. Late last year four counties formed the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition. What began in western Maryland has spread eastward, with Wicomico County tardily joining the fold a week ago and bringing the total membership to nine. Members are geographically spread across the state, with the original four in the west, Cecil County bridging the gap between shores, and four counties on the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, and Wicomico.)
Yet not all counties are taking their membership seriously. For example, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt is quoted as wanting to “make it clear that the coalition doesn’t oppose Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley or any of the state initiatives.” Maybe he should, considering the state is trying to usurp local control which has served us well for decades. Pollitt will probably be the weakest link on a body which was spearheaded in part by Frederick County Commission head (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Blaine Young.
But the toothless Republicans on our County Council might just play along, warned my friend:
It seems that if each county would just designate the preserve land as Tier IV, that would be sufficient. All the law requires is that the county designate four tiers. Wicomico is looking at designating all agricultural land Tier IV. We need to dissuade them. Do the minimum and fight the state…but can we get our Republican councilmen (6 vs. 1 Dem) to do the right thing? Plus our county executive is a Democrat and a big spending liberal.
Personally, I’d put everything in the least restrictive tiers and dare the state to stop us. Someone needs to tell those Annapolis bullies to pound sand and we’re just the county to do it – if a few people get the stones to do so.
I think those of us who live in Wicomico County are bright enough to realize that there is land which can and should be preserved as agricultural area because it’s not suited for growth. But that decision should be made locally and in such a manner that when things change – as they always do – we have the flexibility to adapt rather than be tied down because someone in Annapolis (or Washington, or at the United Nations) thought we should place thousands of acres off-limits to development because they feel it would be nice to construct a wildlife corridor down the Eastern Shore.
If an area doesn’t grow, it shrivels and dies. I like to look at old maps and ponder what happened to villages such as those I grew up around in Ohio: towns like Ai (yes, that’s the name), Lytton, Whitesville, Seward, and many other specks on the map were once prosperous enough to be considered a town but somewhere along the line something changed. Perhaps the railroad chose a different route, or the major highway passed them by. In many cases, business and industry failed or departed for greener pastures.
Essentially, the glue which holds the bulk of the Eastern Shore together comes from the products of farmers and watermen. Yet those who run our state continue to make life more and more miserable for them with the only question being whether this effort is a subconscious one, or purely intentional with the aim to conform our little slice of the world with their dream of control over our lives.
Consider that much of the problem with Chesapeake Bay – aside from the fact we’re dealing with a group which will move the goalposts if we ever approach their idea of cleanliness in order to continue their reason for being – comes from those urban areas these environmentalist do-gooders want us to emulate, and it makes me wonder why they want the rest of us to live that way.