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letters 10/12

October 12, 2000

Letters to the Editor 10/12



Planning ignores the public



To the editor:

Could it be that our planning and zoning commissions intentionally conduct their business in a way that keeps the citizenry out of the loop or should I say, in the dark? It certainly seems that way.

A recent Herald-Mail article told the story of how a historic home site beside the Antietam Battlefield was rezoned from agricultural to commercial without anyone in Sharpsburg knowing until a year after the fact. The Sharpsburg Town Council, The battlefield superintendent and leaders of various other groups would have vigorously opposed such a change had they been notified of the rezoning proposal.

Of course, this is no isolated case. For our Washington County and Hagerstown planning authorities, it is business as usual. The same thing just happened in the Brightwood Acres neighborhood. While the community was battling a rezoning proposal on our east side, we learned that the large tract of land, known as the Harrison Property on the southwest side of our neighborhood, had already been rezoned to Residential R3 without anyone in the neighborhood knowing about it. An R3 zoning would allow apartment buildings up to 60 feet high within five feet of the property lines. Certainly we would have contested that zoning change had we been notified of the proposal and the public hearing.

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When the Wal-Mart developers asked for a zoning change near Funkstown, which allows them to build a super store beside an elementary school and a residential neighborhood, only one person attended the hearing and spoke in opposition. Yet after the building plan hit the front page of The Herald-Mail, there was an avalanche of opposition, indicating that the vast majority of affected parties were unaware of the impending disaster until it was too late.

At this stage of the game, the planning commissions just love telling irate citizens that "the developer is entitled to that type of land use because of the present zoning allows it," insinuating that we are too stupid or apathetic to have attended the public hearing which was advertised on page three, section B of the local paper. Are we expected to read every page of the newspaper every day of our lives to avoid having some money- grubbing real estate developer sneak in and trash our neighborhoods? How difficult would it be for the planning and zoning czars to at least mail a letter to adjacent property owners informing them of any proposed zoning change, the different land uses that would be allowed with such a change and the date of the public hearing? Or is it too convenient to keep it secret and avoid taking heat from homeowners who may show up?

After all, a home is probably the largest and most important investment the average family will make in a lifetime. It is also our refuge, the place we go to relax and recharge our batteries at the end of a stressful day. No one wants to sit on his back porch and listen to the noise from a busy parking lot or stare at some huge hulk of a building sitting on the edge of his back yard. Nor does anyone enjoy standing on a historic battlefield contemplating what may have happened there with the noise and visual distraction of a commercial operation gong on beside him.

We deserve more protection and respect from our elected officials and the quasi-government organizations they have created.

Jim Laird

Hagerstown




In defense of all-day kindergarten



To the editor:

This is concerning all the letters against all-day kindergarten in this county. I am writing as a mother of a fourth grader and a 4-year-old who will enter kindergarten next year. I feel all-day kindergarten is important and much more beneficial than 2 1/2 hours. The things described that kids need includes outside play, play with other children and rest periods they will get in all-day kindergarten.

It was also said children need to spend more time at home with their parents - what percent of these children are actually home with a parent? Most are in all-day preschool or day care. How do you think these teachers can get anything accomplished in 2 1/2 hours with 25 5-year-olds and make it fun? The credit goes to these teachers.

My son's kindergarten teacher, Mr. Pavlik, did a wonderful job, but I would like to see my daughter have a more relaxed all-day atmosphere. In the half day situation the same curriculum needs to be taught so if something gets cut it's the fun or the outside play.

If you have questions about curriculum or what goes on at your children's school, volunteer. All schools need parent involvement and volunteers. This allows you to be a part of your children's school experience - even if it's only two hours a month. You would be surprised at how some of these children actually behave in school. So give the teachers credit, support and respect and teach your children to do the same. Be accepting of any extra education the county has to offer. I say all-day (six hours) kindergarten is a smart move.

Chrisie Long

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