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Letters to the editor

July 21, 2003

TDRs can be effective


To the editor:

As Washington County is in the midst of re-writing the rural lands section of the zoning ordinance, there has been a lot of talk about instituting a "Transferable Development Right" program (a.k.a. "TDRs").

As one who has been actively involved with TDRs in other counties in Maryland, I applaud the Board of County Commissioners for giving this serious consideration.

Simply put, a TDR is typically established within a county to allow for the simple open market transfer of residential subdivision rights from a rural (agricultural and/or conservation) zone. These rights can then be "transferred" or "sent" to other parts of that zone, or to residential density zones.

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Once those rights are severed, the rural land gives up its subdivision rights for a permanent land preservation easement. Above all else, the primary purpose of a TDR program is to preserve agricultural land and/or open space. But it is also intended to compensate rural property owners for the major loss in property value that occurs when a government takes away a rural property owner's right to subdivide, as has been proposed for Washington County this fall.

By considering TDRs for rural property owners, the Board of County Commissioners is acknowledging that something has to be done to compensate these property owners, who are mostly farmers, for the potentially severe loss in value that they face. It is critical to the agricultural community to retain value in their land, as typically equity in one's farm is the primary source of borrowing power, not to mention the only value they depend on for retirement.

I do hope that this board and their planning staff will follow through on this consideration. But I have learned that the rural owners should be warned that such a program is only as good as the level of involvement of the community.

History has proven that eight out of 10 times when a county government takes it upon themselves to institute such a program without truly engaging those who will be impacted, the TDR effort turns out to be a miserable failure.

There are several examples of such programs right here in Maryland - Montgomery, Calvert and Charles counties - all completely different from the next with varying degrees of modest success and failure. But above all, the Howard County model has come the closest to giving the rural property owners fair compensation for the reduction in their property rights.

Rocky Mackintosh
Frederick, Md.




"We the... corporations?"


To the editor:

Since Emperor Bush proclaimed the end of hostilities in Iraq, 68 American soldiers have been killed. About 200 American soldiers died during the open combat phase of the invasion of Iraq.

American soldiers are being killed in Iraq on a daily and ongoing basis. Military morale is low. These soldiers are enduring miserable conditions. The temperature may reach 100 to 110 degrees during the hottest part of the afternoon. The thick hot air is infested with fierce, biting insects.

They serve not to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of a despotic leader, but to further the financial interests of American corporations and to further extend American global hegemony in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Bush is issuing juvenile threats such as "Bring it on" against the attackers from the air conditioned comfort and safety of a plush office, his belly filled with rich food and drink. But the emperor can do no wrong as far as the mainstream media and the neo-conservatives are concerned. So this is what we get and it's exactly what we deserve, until we take back the government from the corrosive influence of neo-conservatism.

Many thousands of our young men and women are an occupying force in a sovereign country. They are not welcome guests or liberators, as the corporate media portrays them. They gain nothing by being there, while risking much, including life and limb.

They do not get a share of the stolen Iraqi oil. They will not get a cut in the lucrative contracts proffered to multi-national corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton after the plunder of Iraq by U.S. forces. They do not have the respect of the world, nor especially the respect and trust of the Iraqi people. They are doing all the dirty work, the suffering, the sacrificing and dying, while rich men reap the profit.

Those who wave their flags and applaud the invasion and subsequent occupation of sovereign, virtually unarmed nations, against the resolve of the United Nations, are simply ignorant of their nation's repulsive history of class warfare. They offer themselves as pawns in another man's game: a game they can never win.

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