Just because you can, does that mean that you should?

April 22, 2005|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

How much is enough? And when should the interests of the community outweigh a developer's right to make the maximum possible profit?

Some will call me a bleeding-heart liberal for asking such questions, but I'm asking anyway.

I started thinking about this issue when I read about the developer who wants to put 450 dwellings on a little bit more than 50 acres off Haven Road near Hagerstown's Rest Haven Cemetery.

The developer, Gene Lynch of Smart Growth Investments LLC, said the property owner has the right to build 1,000 units, but has chosen a design that will erect 450 instead.


To residents who feel that's still a lot of homes - and a lot of in-and-out traffic on two-lane roads - Lynch said that the property owner was being generous.

"Going from 1,000 or 800 to 450 is a huge loss of value," he said.

Call me a communist for asking, but when it comes to development, is profit the only yardstick that matters? What about what makes a better, more livable community?

And if getting that better community meant putting only 150 homes there, wouldn't everyone involved still make plenty of money? To Lynch's comment that the property owner could make more if he so chose, I ask again: How much is enough?

I look forward to readers' responses.

As the price of approval of the excise tax bill, the Washington County Commissioners are required to study the impact of rising property assessments and how to make sure there is more affordable housing.

To do that, they'll appoint a commission, which will hopefully spur the county board to quick action, unlike the citizen commission which studied the county's proposed new zoning classifications.

There are only two ways to ensure that affordable housing - new homes in the $100,000 range - will be built. Either the county gives developers an incentive to do so or it purchases property and has the homes built to its specifications.

Other options - trimming fees for less costly homes, for example - are the kind of feel-good measures that will allow the commissioners to say they've done something, but that won't have a substantial impact.

I've said this at least three times, but let me try again: Over the years, many local builders opposed every proposed new fee on the grounds it would make housing unaffordable.

Now that we have an affordable-housing crisis, certainly those folks have some ideas on how to help resolve it. I await their suggestions with great interest.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce is holding two more candidate forums prior to the Hagerstown city election on May 17.

Candidates for city council will gather for a breakfast forum on Thursday, April 28, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel on the Dual Highway

Candidates for mayor will come to the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Wednesday, May 11, from 7:30 to 9 a.m..

Both events will be taped and rebroadcast on Antietam Cable TV.

For ticket information, contact Donna at donna@hagerstown. org, or call 301-739-2015, ext. 100.

William Emanuel, a Hagerstown Community College math teacher who also runs the Faith of Jesus Center in Hagerstown, says that there are still slots left for the Manhood Training Retreat that will be held this weekend at the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center at 21905 Mount Aetna Road.

The sessions, designed to teach boys about the responsibilities and duties that being a man involves, begin today and run through Sunday.

For more about the event, go to the "opinion" section of The Herald-Mail Web site at and look at my column for April 6.

Or you may call 301-791-5776 for more information.

As the candidates line up to run for the Maryland seat in the U.S. Senate held by Paul Sarbanes, would it be too early to ask all of these would-be senators to pledge, that, if elected, they would visit Western Maryland at least once every six months?

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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