Thursday, July 15, 2010

Comprehensive (?) Plan

Queen Anne's County boasts one of the lowest tax structures in the state of Maryland. Many wrongly believe that without large-scale new residential and commercial growth, our favorable tax structure is in danger. History, experience and economics indicate otherwise. To infer as many do, that the County has been exclusively anti-growth, or that economic activity has suffered a real contraction as a result of an anti-growth mentality, is misleading at best, and downright fraudulent, at worst.

We are, along with the rest of the nation, suffering from a general economic downswing, caused in some measure, by exactly the kind of spastic development that some are currently seeking to jumpstart again in Queen Anne's County. As the cliche goes, those who fail to remember history, are doomed to repeat it; and this history doesn't require one to look back too far. Of course many who advocate for a policy of unfettered growth and development do so for political or personal pecuniary reasons that should not have a role in the development of planning policy.

There is absolutely no more short-sighted public policy than to attempt to meet the challenges associated with past growth (and they are manifold) with more growth. This is akin to the proverbial dog chasing his tail. All this ensures is that our quality of life will suffer, our favorable tax structure will erode as new demands on County services become unavoidable, and our County will slowly but surely come to mimic the Western Shore and much of the Eastern Seaboard, with the problems inherent in those locales. Problems that each Queen Anne's County citizen is attempting to avoid, on some level, by choosing to live in the County.

The Citizens Advisory Committee on the Comprehensive Plan made five recommendations that I believe speak to the desires of our County's populace to direct growth to where it is most appopriate, and protect the rural character and the quality of life of Queen Anne's County. I believe that it would be unwise to trump those citizen recommendations at this juncture, and would encourage the planning commission to include those recommendations (pasted below) in the Comprehensive Plan.

1. No more major subdivision development on Kent Island until transportation issues are resolved and until affects of rising water levels are understood.2. No more major subdivision development permitted in AG zoned land. (The visioning report identified "loss of farmland" and "rural sprawl" as a primary county threat or weakness.)3. Direct Growth to Existing Population Centers / Towns, where there is infrastructure to support growth.4. No New Business Parks or Commercial Centers until existing commercial areas are built out.5. Establish policies that protect streams, waterways, forests and sensitive areas from development by establishing a county wide Priority Preservation Area.

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