Letters to the editor 10/16

October 16, 2002

Thanks for the 'right' to be unprofitable

To the editor:

I would like to thank Denise Troxell for her generosity to the farmers of Washington County as expressed in her Sept. 27 column. I, for one, no longer fear government control over my farmland. Because of her, I now know that, despite the county's devaluing of land we farmers have paid for and sweated and toiled over, we still have many options:

We could receive protective easement payments (if government chooses to fund them, if we can hold out while the political system decides who will receive them, and if we can financially survive our land's loss of value in the meantime).

We could voluntarily give up control over our land through deed restrictions, We could rent our land to young farmers (if there are young people who want to farm and can secure financial backing).

Our children could still build their homes on our land (if they want to live there). We could sell our produce to the local folks who are so benevolent with their restrictions.


We could have a Farm Aid concert (maybe we could get Willie). We could sell our land to people who want to invest in agriculture (if investors can be found for agriculture - the economics of which make Enron look like a growth stock - and again, if we farmers can financially survive the loss of our land's value from downzoning).

Of course, we already had those options, and many other rights to our land. Those rights were once guaranteed to us by the Fifth Amendment, which holds that government cannot take our property "without just compensation."

But the Fifth Amendment was written by people who believed that government's purpose is to secure our individual rights - a belief out-of-tune with our modern world. Some of us are convinced that collective desires should outweigh what an individual has worked for and earned.

I guess that's why Denise's heart is "thanking God" for Mennonites who say nothing when their land is devalued and their rights are stolen.

Thomas E. Firey

Clear Spring

County not taking growth seriously

To the editor:

I was saddened by the Washington County Commissioner vote allowing agriculturally zoned land to have one house per five acres. This is a clear green light for developers making Washington County zoning far less restrictive than our over-developed neighbor to the east.

Even this very permissive zoning is offensive to developers. The Sept. 19 Herald-Mail has an article about a developer who wants to put 60 homes on 123 acres of "the county's best agricultural soil."

If you happened to do the math, you would have noticed that this puts one house on every two acres. While our commissioners avoid a moratorium on new development, developers are racing to get projects approved before the weak comprehensive plan goes into effect.

As if this plan wasn't already a gift to developers, the commissioners and planning department are busy extending the boundaries that allow high-density development. All county residents should get a copy of the Aug. 20 minutes of the commissioners meeting to see this process at work.

When one commissioner voted against any restriction of zoning because of his philosophical belief that this is a "taking" of a developer's or farmer's asset, I can see his point.

But when he also claims that he does not want to see agricultural land developed I must ask what have you (or any of the commissioners) done to preserve farmland? Every year, there is a waiting list of farmers who want to sell their development rights but "there is no money for it."

Every year these commissioners allow millions of dollars of state matching grants (to purchase development rights) to go unused.

These commissioners have no problem giving the Economic Development Commission over $500,000 every year with nothing (but a vague notion that somebody might someday bring a high paying job to this county because of the EDC) to show for it. If these commissioners do not want to do serious downzoning, do not want a moratorium, do not want an impact fee, do not want an excise tax on new development, do not want to fund farmland preservation and have no other plan, then they will allow this county to be destroyed by developers through their inaction.

Unfortunately, their track record belies their rhetoric.

Joe Lane


Cycle concern is well-founded

To the editor:

Lori Houser should be ashamed, as should her friends and like-minded peers who also are misguided by misconceptions and are truly closed-minded.

You, if no one else, should have contacted the relatives you reference, to discuss the issues, not just blindly make erroneous statements.

Do you know there are two issues? One being the proposed ATV park and two being the Cycle Repair Shop. We have never demanded, in fact, have never requested the closing of Horst's repair facility. Our only concern was and is the proposed ATV park.

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