Next stop Maryland? Or is it already here?

At the risk of making this the return of FNV on a Saturday (because I’ve featured videos on two posts in a row), I became aware of this video through a pro-liberty friend of mine who found it on a site heretofore unknown to me called The Unsolicited Opinion. While this comes from the People’s Republic of California, we can rest assured that there is something similar afoot in Maryland.

Now bear in mind that the landowner didn’t wish to develop his property for a residential use, but an AGRICULTURAL one.

The discussion initiated by my pro-liberty friend which made me aware of the video was one on conservation easements; that is a sore subject with me as is the concept of transferable development rights. I pointed this out in my reply:

This is why I’ve always maintained that development rights should only be sold on a generational basis (20-25 years) and Program Open Space should be chopped out of the state budget. Land taken off the property tax rolls by state ownership means taxes go up for the rest of us.

But in concept, no one really “owns” their property: property taxes = rent to government. Try not paying them and see what happens.

There are many other encroachments on our rights over the last few years, particularly in the septic bill but also in seeing critical areas legislation covering land farther and farther away from bodies of water. What used to be a 100-foot buffer in subdivisions is now 200 feet, for example. It’s all done in order to preserve Chesapeake Bay, although whether this overzealous assault on property rights is actually working to that end is a questionable proposition. It seems to me as if the goalposts continue to move in terms of what defines a suitable water quality.

So where should the line between the public good and the interests of the landowner be drawn? Most localities have some sort of zoning code in place, and generally they are thought of as the compromise point between unfettered development and overly restrictive regulations. Unfortunately, the general trend has been towards more restriction – one could consider the tier maps now adopted in most Maryland counties as yet another form of zoning, but with potentially economically disastrous consequences for those hapless enough to be stuck in Tier IV without hope for development potential. It reminded some of us of the “downzoning” controversy we had here in Wicomico County a few years back.

But don’t be surprised if some of the stealthier moves in next year’s Maryland General Assembly session come in the area of infringements on property rights, cloaked in the guise of “saving the Bay.” It’s not hard to write legislation so it doesn’t take effect until after the election, so the Annapolis liberals can campaign on good intentions knowing the undesirable results will only come when they are safely back in office – four years later they can come back with yet another “fix.”

It’s time to end that vicious cycle.

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