Voters should remember rezoning

February 18, 2006|By Thomas E. Firey

To the editor:

In the past four years, the Washington County Commissioners have passed and implemented a new comprehensive development plan and a far-reaching rural rezoning amendment. Proponents of the legislation were persistently unyielding and referred to its passage as "smart growth."

The controversy that surrounded the legislation was often philosophical in nature and involved two basic and conflicting views:

1. Individual property rights should be respected and protected by government.

2. Government has the authority to award or deny property rights at will and without consideration for monetary loss.

The current County Commissioners chose the second option when they passed the rezoning amendment last July by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Greg Snook, Dori Nipps and Jim Kercheval voting in favor and Commissioners Bill Wivell and John Munson voting against.

The most frequently used reason to justify the passage was that it is for "the common good."

Those who spoke of the "common good" when advocating the changes at a series of public hearings, as well as commissioners Snook, Nipps and Kercheval and their predecessors Paul Swartz, John Schnebly and Bert Iseminger, appear to have avoided any financial loss from the rezoning's passage.


However, some 20,000 rural county landowners were not as fortunate, because the commissioners chose to offer no compensation for loss of development rights from the rezoning. Evidently, the common good was served when rural landowners paid the bill for "smart growth" advocates' desires.

Even with all the hyperbole used to support this vision of the future, I refuse to believe the voters of Washington County support this method of governing. When county residents replaced Swartz and Iseminger and Schnebly retired in 2002, I believe they thought they had voted for a government that would be more fiscally conservative and have a greater respect for individual rights.

But only commissioners Wivell and Munson have demonstrated a commitment to those values. The other three current commissioners have formed a majority that has followed the same tax, spend and control philosophy as the previous commission. Regulations and restrictions on our rights have mushroomed at an unprecedented rate, along with assessments, taxes and fees for services.

But there is a bright side for county residents who believe in limited government and respect for their neighbors.

This is an election year. Surely, it is in the best interests of each of us to become intensely involved in the upcoming election. We need to question and research what each candidate's beliefs and visions are, and turn out in force at the primary and general elections to nominate and then elect the right candidates.

This is the only way we can reverse the trend of the past eight years. Fairness in government and respect for individual rights need to be restored in Washington County.

Thomas E. Firey


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