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Action needed now to slow growth

September 03, 2006|by Wallace McClure

Washington County is in the throes of dramatic change, as evidenced by the rapid proliferation of residential housing over the past four years. As a long-time resident of the county and a small-business owner, I felt compelled to enter this commissioner race to give a strong voice to those voters who feel the same way I do - that this growth is too much and too fast.

I have all the statistics to bear out the fact that the average number of new stick-built homes up until 2002 was under 350 per year. That has now risen to more than 650 per year and increasing. You wonder why the roads are filled with cars bumper to bumper, why schools are overcrowded, why your property taxes are increasing dramatically and why everywhere you go there are new signs for new homes and new developments? It's because the current commissioners have been too slow and unresponsive in countering this residential onslaught that is coming from practically every developer in the business east of South Mountain.

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There was a moratorium for a while (imposed because of a drought) and a downzoning plan was debated and passed. Recently, I did read where the commissioners had finally rejected a plan in the Williamsport area. Unfortunately, it's all been too little and too late.

The key to thwarting this growth lies precisely in the palms of the commissioners' hands. Do you think that if at least two or three of the current commissioners are re-elected we will see a continuation of these current trends? I believe we will, and therefore am asking you, the voters of Washington County (and especially all Republicans for the primary election Sept. 12) to put me in office or better yet, as president of the commissioners, to send a strong message to all concerned that we are not going to do business as was usual the past four years, but instead we are going to take every possible step to slow growth down to a more manageable rate and keep it in step with school capacities, road maintenance and development, public safety needs and land preservation without allowing Washington County to become any more of an urban nightmare than it already is.

If this situation is not properly addressed soon, it will adversely affect almost every issue that comes before the next board of commissioners as well as the personal way of life for every citizen in Washington County. For example:

1. The primary focus of the Board of Education will become that of "where are we going to put all these new students?"

2. The landfill, which we were told would last a long time (and would have at the annual tonnage produced when it was built) will quickly fill with all the left-over debris from new construction and excavation. If you think new schools are expensive, just wait and see what a new landfill costs.

3. The proliferation of new, $500,000-and-up homes will drive longer term residents, senior citizens and aspiring new home purchasers out of Washington County as the consequential and correlating rapidly increasing property tax assessments make an affordable home rare or even nonexistent.

The answers to this challenge lie in several key areas:

1. Prohibiting growth in school districts that are at or over capacity until that situation is rectified.

2. Determination of quantifiable, plentiful and constant water sources through more updated and scientific measures than used 13 years ago.

3. Implementing my new proposal which I plan to elaborate on more in mid-October. Very briefly, it will be based on quantitative analysis of growth statistics over the past 10 years (which I currently have on file), six years of which were manageable and compatible from 1996 through 2002, and four years of which from 2002 through 2006 are setting a dangerous precedent for the future of Washington County (unless you want our county to become like Frederick County).

You have many choices in this election and several months ago, the question "Why are so many candidates running to be commissioners?" was asked. One businessman said the reason was because when you have a ship running smoothly on course everyone wants to be a part of it. I beg to differ. So many of us are running because one of us is desperately wanting to seize control of the helm, set the rudder on a better, more conservative course, and have a new crew to support and assist.

If you want a repeat of the past four years, vote for the incumbents. But if you are looking for a strong Republican conservative that you can count on for fiscal restraint, a firm stance against out-of-control growth, as low as possible taxes, and most importantly, good common sense, then you need to vote for me because I'm in this election for you. Be sure, vote McClure for county commissioner. I'll thank you for your votes.

J. Wallace McClure is a Republican Washington County Commissioner candidate from Leitersburg.

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