PlanMaryland: A easy sell to taxpayers

Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall is on the right track with PlanMaryland, as he and his staff are working to develop a strategic development plan to accommodate the million-plus people that will move into our state in the future ("High cost of sprawl should not be ignored," Sept. 23). The Maryland Department of Planning has taken on heroic leadership to pull departments together and prudently plan so that Maryland stays attractive for new businesses and keeps those already here thriving, so that residents have access to transportation to take them to work, so that its bridges and roads can be repaired when necessary, so that we have money in our coffers to build schools, roads and provide water and sewer systems to accommodate new residents, so that we are able to maintain adequate emergency services, and so that we have sufficient land to grow local healthy food for our people.

Blaine Young, the president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, is dead wrong when he portrays PlanMaryland in shades of red and blue ("O'Malley's Smart Growth power grab," Sept. 19). PlanMaryland is not about pitting Republicans against Democrats, it is about sound decision-making and building communities where they make the most sense. Commissioner Young is playing politics with PlanMaryland and trying to fly the American flag on property rights and the right to sprawl if we want to.

While I deeply respect private property rights, private property owners do not have a right to make me or others pay for their new homes. No one has an inherent right to increase my taxes so they can profit from sprawl development. No one has a right to overcrowd schools and roads that then take hundreds of millions of citizens' dollars to build our way out of. No one has an inherent right to strain police and fire to the point that response times are delayed and lives are put at risk. Planning so that doesn't happen is what MDP is working to do for us.

This is fundamentally a question of values. Mr. Young's core value is making sure that a small group of developers get rich regardless of the costs to citizens. He hides that objective behind a lot of lofty rhetoric, but we all know for whom he works. Why else would Commissioner Young solicit rezoning proposals that will cut up 15,000 acres of Frederick County's open space and rich farmland for over 23,000 new homes — when there are already over 36,000 approved homes in the county's pipeline and when, just last year, our county thoroughly analyzed and then approved a growth plan that meets state growth projections? Mr. Young's land grab will demand over $540 million in taxpayer money to build just the schools to service the new children.

In Mr. Young's world there is no value placed on the community, there is no real respect for working together to advance common social goals. His goal, like that of other tea party activists, is to destroy basic government protections for the common citizen and create a winner-take-all society where the special interest with the most lawyers and lobbyists wins.

Our objective is a fair balance, where development takes place in a way and at a pace that benefits everyone in the community. While Gov. Martin O'Malley might face a tough sell to some politicians, this sell is not a tough one to taxpayers. Go with PlanMaryland!

Janice Wiles, Frederick

The writer is executive director of Friends of Frederick County.

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