(8/2014) There will be changes to our landscape in Frederick County, but there won't be any more land.
The land we have is all we will ever have, and itís critical that we plan and manage the growth and changes in a carefully balanced and responsible manner. If land use, planning and zoning decisions continue to be made the way they have been the past three and a half years, we will lose much of what we love about Frederick County. When the only "plan" is
to say yes to every development proposal, anywhere, and to let the developers write the terms of the approval, including a list of ways in which the development will be subsidized by the current residents and taxpayers of the county, you end up with the worst kind of sprawl.
Not just sprawl that envelopes our towns and fragments the countryside, though, but sprawl that far outstrips the countyís ability to provide and maintain the necessary infrastructure. That means worsening traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, inadequate parks, inefficient and expensive water and sewer systems, and more.
It means paying more for less, and sacrificing the quality of life we enjoy in Frederick County.
How and where we grow affects everything, and responsible leadership means planning growth in a manner that considers the best interests of the people and communities that are already here, now and in the long term. Sometimes that means having to balance conflicting interests. Frederick County needs county council members you can trust to fairly represent
and consider -- and responsibly balance -- those interests.
The real question is not about being pro-growth or no-growth. Frederick County is going to grow. But there are many choices we can make about how and where and how fast that happens. In other words, how well it happens.
The current commissioners, including Kirby Delauter, have taken an irresponsible, developer-driven approach that isnít planning at all, except that it is a plan to fail. Blaine Young likes to say that "just because a development is approved, it doesnít mean it will be built." That is a hollow response to concerns about the lack of planning or the cost or
inadequacy of infrastructure. The market may ultimately determine how fast some of the approved sprawl takes place, but the pace of build out wonít make it a better plan, or reduce the long term costs and impacts and other problems associated with the lack of planning.
What it does mean is that we wonít see or feel all the negative effects on our county all at once or right away. And then it is often too late.
We hear some commissioners say that the number of building permits has been down from historical highs. But that is the result of the economic recession and real estate collapse. It was not from a lack of adequate land zoned for residential and business development. The 2010 Comprehensive plan included enough land planned and zoned to exceed population
growth projections for the next 25 years.
The current commissioners did not change one word of the 2010 plan. They understood it was a set of guidelines, that they could ignore, and that it was the land use and zoning map that had the force of law. Since taking office, they have rezoned thousands of additional acres of farms and forest for many thousands of new homes, much of it where there is
little or no existing infrastructure.
But effects of those changes will be even worse, because, as important as how and where development takes place, there is the question of how much the public facilities and services will cost, and who will pay for it.
A number of changes by the current commissioners now mean that hundreds of millions of dollars in costs associated with the new development have been transferred, directly and indirectly, from the developers to county residents and taxpayers. This affects every resident and taxpayer in the county, whether the new development is near them or not.
Iím a home inspector and former home builder. I understand how hard builders were hit when the market collapsed. I understand the challenges and risks developers take. But we donít have to compromise our future to be fair. The financial crisis was largely the result of short-term thinking, and greed. Thatís no way to plan our future in Frederick County.
There are significant differences between me and Commissioner Delauter. One of them is that I will responsibly balance competing interests, and consider the real and long term consequences of our policy choices.
To learn more about Mark Long visit his campaign website at www.marklong.us
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