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Letters to the Editor 1/27 part 2

January 30, 2002

Letters to the Editor 1/27 part 2



Argue with me, but use facts, not guesses and hunches



To the editor:

Mike McGough doesn't let facts get in the way of a good rant in his response (Herald-Mail, December 30) to my letter; it's a shame he didn't understand it. You'll wear your eyeballs out trying to find a single, verifiable fact in his letter. I used facts, logic, and "sweeping assumptions," backed by real numbers. He prefers the bold, unsupported assertion, the hunch, the guess and innuendo.

According to the 2000 U.S. census, the average family size in Washington County is 2.96 persons. Since the Census Bureau defines a family as two adults living together, logic, along with common sense, says that the .96 person is going to be a child - or 485 in the Evergreen Development.

This troublesome, but irrefutable conclusion, is the basis for my "sweeping assumption" that there will be a significant impact on the schools from the Evergreen Development. His "walk through the neighborhood, we see some little ones here and there," is a dubious basis for formulating public policy. If he walked through Toy 'R' Us, seeing "little ones" everywhere, presumably he'd be forced to conclude that there's a population explosion.

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He has a "hunch" that "Hagerstown is glad to have these households (North Gate and Summerland Manor.) His "guess" is that these neighborhoods are not a financial burden to the city.

That plain misses the point; it's perfectly all right for him to have a "hunch" and a "guess." But the city's economic development coordinator "did not know how much it would cost the city to provide services to that area (Evergreen Development), but she (Deborah Everhart) said it would be a lot less."

City officials should have some factual, definable basis for asserting that, "it would be a lot less." How much less? How much will 485 new housing units add to Hagerstown's bottom line? What business launches a product saying, "We don't know how much it's going to cost or how much profit we'll make"? Shouldn't taxpayers expect better financial accountability than "it would be a lot less"?

As a knight-errant, McGough Mike gallantly rises to the Everhart's defense, asserting that "maybe she was just being conservative rather than forecasting wildly optimistic figures." But Everhart can run a calculator as well as I can. The question is simple: Where did the $322,000 figure come from?

What happens if the developer changes his plans (as we've seen in the Pangborn Park brouhaha) and instead of $322,000 Hagerstown realizes only $289,900 (a 10 percent decrease)? Is that enough to cover expenses?

McGough's next-to-last paragraph is a symphony of smoke and mirrors. First, he labeled as "unrealistic" my statement that, "the Evergreen development will be filled by people who are not now residents of our county."

But if all 485 units are filled by current county residents, then there are 485 other housing units to be sold or rented.

Evergreen wouldn't be building these if a demand didn't exist, and that demand - and these people - have to come from somewhere.

McGough has also fallen victim to the popular fallacy that people only move within their community. The 2000 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers states that the mean move for a homebuyer in the Northeast is 95 miles.

At the very least, half of these units will be occupied by non-county residents. Even if you use the lower mean move figure of eight miles, you'll find that parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Frederick County all fall within that measure. In short, the hard facts are that where ever those 485 units are, your new neighbors probably will be from out of town.

McGough continues continue, "To further assume that every family buying or renting there (Evergreen Development) would add a brand-new student to our public school population is really reaching." The facts don't change just because you don't like them: the average family is three people. Based on the facts, a reasonable person would expect that 485 students will be added to the school population.

And contrary to what McGough said, the fact that the valuation for Evergreen units is 36.7 percent below Washington County's average selling price for a home isn't "insulting." It's a fact. A fact is neutral. It's only when someone supplies their own interpretation that a fact acquires its "insulting" character. Say what you like, it doesn't change the fact that the Evergreen Development is substantially below what the average housing cost is for the county and will not pay for the services it requires.

"No, it's not reasonable for the Board of Education to participate in city annexation decisions." Who does McGough feel should participate? The city that can't quantify what the cost of services will be? The developer who's only looking for a profit?

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