Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baltimore Unhappy with Rural Freedom

The Baltimore Sun is up in arms that farmers are up in arms protesting the new Maryland State septic bill:

Some farmers may protest, but Maryland's year-old law restricting large-scale use of septic systems is needed more than ever

In Cecil and Frederick counties, for instance, it's clear that local government is minimally invested in agricultural preservation and unlikely to deny most any rural landowners the opportunity to turn their land into a subdivision. The Maryland Department of Planning last month notified the governing commissioners in both counties that their plans come up short.
No, they're not at all "invested" in agricultural preservation; like a sensible people, they are invested in doing what's best for them and their constituents, and their families, and the septic bill is a restriction on their ability to make the most choices regarding what to do with their property for their own good.  Astonishingly, they resent being told by Baltimore (and the other urban centers) that they can't have the benefits of development that the urban centers have.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman recently issued the first veto of his six years in office when the County Council produced a septics ordinance that similarly failed to pass environmental muster. How did the council in such a progressive jurisdiction fail? Chiefly by unwisely capitulating to some farmers who were unhappy to be losing potential development rights — and the possibility that they could one day sell their land to commercial interests.
And you say it's not a taking?

But here's the problem with that kind of let-them-build thinking. It's simply not in the public interest to offer up every bit of undeveloped rural land for a future housing tract. Not for taxpayers who can't afford it, not for agriculture that will get squeezed out, and certainly not for the environment and any hope of preserving clean air and water. What's needed is "smart" growth with more development steered toward cities and towns served by water and sewer systems, and where roads, schools and public transportation are already in place.
See, it's all for the cities and towns.  Many of us like to live in rural and suburban areas; the cities are essentially passing laws saying "OK, enough of that; the rest of you have live in the city with the rest of us."

Some counties clearly don't like having a mandate imposed on them by state government, particularly when it comes to planning and zoning. But it's not as if all rural communities are up in arms. Many have recognized the importance of agricultural preservation, have followed the septics law faithfully and have taken steps to protect their open spaces.
Yes, it's quite clear.  What if the countryside managed to pass a law that said the cities could only use water in proportion to the area of the city to the whole state?  Would they resent having those limits forced on them?  Or how about if the countryside somehow embargoed energy streaming into the city from coal fired power plants, nuke plants, hydroelectric dams, etc, which are all chiefly sited in rural areas?  Cities could use all the wind and solar power they can build inside the city limits.  Maybe even build their own coal fired plant.  (Baltimore actually does have a couple; not enough to run the whole city though).

If some rural areas want to follow the restrictions on septic, fine; that's their choice. But it doesn't need to be forced on all by people who won't suffer the consequences.

What's particularly troubling about the protests is that the same counties that are failing to protect their land have also been drawn into those phony-baloney "war on rural counties" protests of recent years that see every State House decision as a threat. From lawsuits aimed at environmental initiatives to "forums" attacking climate change science, certain conservative Republicans appear to be banking on a populist, know-nothing message of victimization to win voter support.
You're not doing a good job of convincing me, in fact, it's rather the other way; you make me want to resist all the more.

No comments:

Post a Comment