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CPWC goals are simple: Preserve our community and the beauty of the land

June 21, 2003|By Denise Troxell

I want to thank Tom Firey for his recent column about the motives of the Citizens for the Protection of Washington County. Any time a small grassroots organization of volunteers gets publicity from the editor of a multimillion-dollar Libertarian think-tank's magazine it means we're doing something right.

While he misunderstands some of our specific activities and positions, he does reiterate our goal of helping our community understand the details of various land-use issues. We absolutely do want our local world to keep its peaceful, rural flavor, and we're proud of our work.

Our bedrock goal, though, is to encourage responsible government in all areas. That is one reason why, even though USGS water analyst Eric Greene was an excellent witness to the fact that groundwater here is limited and every new home drains it more, we struggled with the county spending $60,000 for his study in these hard times.

The one area where Firey was misinformed was on our attitude toward farmers. CPWC is on the public record supporting every initiative that keeps farmers farming, including the recently passed Growth Management Act that will raise at least $400,000 a year for ag preservation. Often we are testifying right alongside or just after the Farm Bureau and the Ag Land Preservation Board.

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The CPWC attends almost every open meeting our local government holds. On a recent Monday, several CPWC members observed a workshop for the Planning Commission on Transfers of Development Rights (TDR's), which may be yet another tool to provide payments to farmers and rural landowners for protecting their land.

Firey and Libertarians in general have a problem with "the uncompensated seizure" of land by zoning laws. But almost everywhere in this nation, zoning to protect agriculture and open space has been proven legal, and nowhere has there been 100 percent compensation, just as ag land has seldom been taxed at 100 percent, either.

What there usually is, and what dedicated public employees and private people of this county are working for, is a package of programs that may include easements that pay landowners to extinguish development rights. TDRs, tax incentives, and various other federal, state and local programs prove that the public cares enough to pay something to save the working farms and open space of our nation.

In the book, "Libertarianism," David Boaz, the executive vice president of Firey's organization, posits that there should be as little government as possible, that the free unrestricted market should run the world and that we should live in small groups of like-minded people and do exactly what we want all the time, except when it hurts someone else.

Deciding what "hurts someone else" seems a little tricky to me, but it's an attractive movement because it bashes liberals and conservatives, big government and most rules, so there's something for everyone to like.

In other words, take power away from the government (that's us folks) and give it to the market. I can't believe my hero Thomas Jefferson, the man they love to quote, would support multi-national corporations ruling the world.

Conglomerates make life cheaper and lull us into feeling safe, but are they really about freedom of choice? Do local builders appreciate it when huge developments roll over an area?

But even under their rules, isn't our county a local community? Can't we decide that we want to preserve some farms and land by controlling growth?

Faced with current residents being "hurt" by having their property "taken" in the form of shrinking and polluted groundwater, along with possibly higher taxes to provide schools and everything else for new residents, our government or "we the people" have decided to slow down the influx of new members to this community.

We have also enacted some measures to help compensate the landowners that will cost all of us, so we are sharing the pain.

Leaving education, health and other concerns aside, in a Libertarian world I'm afraid our farmers would not survive. Either the unrestricted market would buy everything from foreign countries, or the people who build houses next to farms wouldn't like the smell, and there would be no Right to Farm Law, because that would be government interference.

We should insist our government promote small businesses and farmers and restrict the large monopolies and land speculators so that a balance is kept. We should continually compromise and work together, and refuse the concept of separate but not equal communes where people think only of themselves.

The CPWC simply reflects that caring, proactive, feisty American spirit that is willing to spend long unpaid hours fighting for this beautiful land and the democratic principles of equality, compromise and helping others. We want food from our own farmers. We want views and clean air and trees. We don't want to be forced to pay higher taxes for the infrastructure of urban sprawl.

We also care deeply about the future of the farmers who need a decent return on their hard work, but it should be reasonable and not leave a wasteland as their legacy.

Denise Troxell is a Boonsboro resident and CPWC member.

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