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Cascade community has been fleeced

July 09, 2005|by Mary J. Rockwell

Have you heard of "The Fleecing of America?" If the potential sale of Fort Ritchie to Corporate Office Properties Trust is consummated, I feel we will see a "Fleecing of Cascade, Washington County and the State of Maryland."

My limited IQ tells me the $5 million price for Fort Ritchie, with all its potential, is ridiculous. The land, buildings, lake, swimming pool, fire station, commissary, movie theater, numerous housing units, craft center, youth center, gymnasium, gas station, bowling alley, auto shop, etc., plus the historical buildings there far exceed the amount of $5 million.

Rental alone on the housing units at $800 a month for just 50 units (and there are more than 50 units) brings in a gross revenue of $480,000 a year.

New buildings erected prior to the base closing such as the commissary, gas station, post exchange, fire station, bowling alley, youth center, craft center, etc., were built in such a way that I am sure each building would assess for more than $1 million based on a single home selling for $250,000.

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The land that served as a parade field, football field, landing zone for helicopters, golf course, baseball fields, tennis courts, etc., without including the undeveloped land are certainly worth a lot, if you consider the average price per acre for commercial property. Let's not fail to mention the lake, which serves as a place to boat, fish and swim. It could also become an income producing commodity.

On top of all this Fort Ritchie has the water and pump and mineral rights and based on my own water bill, this would bring the owners a tremendous income. At times, we here in Cascade have had to purchase water from other areas.

Wouldn't it be nice if they purchased water from us, enabling us to pay the huge debt we incurred when forced to put in a new water and sewer system here in Cascade? What in the world are the county and state thinking when they choose to sell this priceless commodity? Instead of utilizing the water rights for our own community, we will be paying outsiders for the water.

Petitions circulating in Cascade by our local merchants are urging signatures to support the sale of Fort Ritchie as planned. As a homeowner in Cascade, I feel that the residents are being coerced into signing these petitions based on how great it would be for our community.

I feel that the so-called "promised jobs" will undoubtedly go to people who do not reside in our community since most of our populace is retired.

People in our community who offer rentals may lose business if the potential employers decide to "house" their own workers right on the base. Our roads will require more maintenance, the need for more fire and police protection will increase .... and guess who will have to fund these things. As I see it, the only ones benefiting from the sale as it stands are the local merchants who could provide services to the influx of new people ... that is, unless Wal-Mart and Lowe's take over in Waynesboro.

What about taxes? Suppose the purchaser stations his "home base" for business in another state, does that eliminate taxation on their "income" by Maryland? Just asking as a taxpayer and resident of this community.

Doesn't it stand to reason that "our needs" would be met better by allowing us to access the lake for fishing, boating, swimming? - the craft building for a center for the elderly for bingo, quilting, ceramics, etc. - the fields and gym for local teens and children to keep them off the streets. The buildings could be used for further education in various fields of productivity ... maybe a place for handicapped or gifted children and/or adults? It would be nice to have a "park" for our children to play in, families to picnic in. The golf course, ball fields and tennis courts could be activated. The bowling alley would be nice for everyone who likes to bowl. These are the things that would enhance and benefit us as a community.

I strongly urge people to think about these things before signing these petitions. The bottom line is, at the price of $5 million we are giving our future away and putting our children in bondage to outsiders.

Think about higher taxes, someone else regulating our water and sewer for higher bills, more upkeep on our roads, fire and crime increasing, losing your present jobs to people coming in with higher skills than what you have to offer. Think about it, folks. Don't you find all of this rather strange? Can you see where this could be considered a "fleecing"?

Mary J. Rockwell is a resident of Cascade.

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