As the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Right now, I believe that is the road we are on, and I hope that each member of our board of commissioners will look deeply within his/her conscience to determine what he/she believes the role of gov't vs. the private sector is, as well as what it means to be fiscally responsible.
There are so many reasons to be against the McCoy development purchase, and I honestly can't think of one good reason to support it given the cost and nature of the contract. The reasons that I've heard to support this purchase are pretty weak when taken into consideration with the many negative consequences of supporting the purchase.
Although Mr. McCoy may have been verbally promised this money by a previous board, it should not be carried out by this board. There is a reason the previous board did not win re-election, and that was because citizens were looking for a more fiscally responsible and conservative board. Obama has also made a lot of verbal promises, and I certainly hope that the future president doesn't feel the need to carry out Obama's unfulfilled promises.
I have also heard it said that this provides a way for the landowner to recover some of the value of his property lost by Plan MD. My question would be then, is it acceptable for the government to rob taxpayers to pay off a landowner that had his wealth stolen by the state gov't? Is it the taxpayers job to make the landowner whole when the government steals from him? That is a "Robinhood" philosophy- robbing Peter to pay Paul. The only thing that accomplishes is excusing the state government because once again the taxpayers are making up the difference. I believe we should be taking a much different approach to the state in regards Plan Maryland than rolling over and agreeing to place the burden on the backs of the taxpayers.
Another reason given to support this PDR is to stop development to preserve our rural character. However, to believe that is to believe that it is government's job to control how and where people live and how much land an individual can have. It is to believe that government should control the market, rather than allowing the free market to work. It is to believe that tax money should be spent to benefit a few land-rich individuals, at the expense of many. This is no different than the bailouts and stimulus granted by the federal gov't except at least those things benefitted a greater number of people; this land deal is not for the public benefit. This is government picking winners and losers once again, a bailout to benefit few at the expense of the majority. A conservative who believes in limited government and the free market cannot support a federal land grab at taxpayer's expense as this is.
Specifically, whatever the intentions may be, the local government should not be infringing on the free market as this purchase does. Doing so will have far reaching consequences on other property owners in the county who will have their own property values inflated as land becomes more scarce (supply and demand), and who will have to subsidize the taxes of those owning "protected land" in order to meet the constant yield standard.
I have been told that the ultimate goal is to put 55k acres in conservation, which is 25% of the entire land in Cecil County? At what point will property values of other people become inflated increasing our taxes (since we will have higher assessments and we will have to subsidize all of the landowners who live in "protected" territory?) How difficult will it be for middle class citizens in the future to own a house on one or two or five acres? Or will land ownership only be reserved for the wealthy while everyone else gets to live in their "smart and sustainable" subdivision.
Some of the liberal environmentalists try to use the argument that this government intervention is necessary because sprawl is not fiscally sustainable, because of the roads, schools, etc that are necessary because of development. It just costs too much, so gov't has to step in to limit all of this and regulate more and more. Land must be rationed so as to create a sustainable use of our resources. This is the same argument that is being used to try to regulate what people can or cannot eat, because of the health issues and cost to other when people become sick, so gov't has to step in and save the day. It's all part of the same thing, and it's all about control, whatever the stated intentions are. If you are familiar with Agenda 21, you know that land is just one resource that will eventually be rationed and regulated to create what the enviro-marxists believe is a "sustainable environment". Eventually, the goal is to regulate and ration all "reources" such as food, energy, and other types of private property.
Not only that, but with SB 236 and Plan MD, there is little likelihood of this land being developed anytime soon. For any major development in a tier 3 designated area as this property is, there needs to be special approval by the planning commission, a public hearing, and an environmental study. Since this land is outside the designated growth area for Plan MD, there is little chance that this land could be developed. If McCoy doesn't want to develop his land, then he shouldn't. Why are the taxpayers being forced to subsidize him or bail him out?
This deal places the land forever under the control of the federal government. FOREVER. So commissioners who support this will be shackling the limbs of future generations, not just for the next decade or two, but indefinitely who may have different needs than we have today. One thing is certain, when Lowell McCoy and all his heirs are long gone and no longer have any connection to that land, the federal government will still be there. The local government isn't even mentioned in the agreement between the Cecil Land Trust and the NRCS which governs this transaction. In fact, if Cecil County ever needs to get an easement for a road or utilities on the property, it won't be able to do so, unless the feds approve it. The agreement clearly is to the advantage of the federal government, even though the local gov't is contributing half the money. There is nothing in it for the county. While McCoy will benefit financially here and now, what are the potential long-term impact of making land inaccessible in perpetuity?
This is very fiscally irresponsible. For five commissioners who spent the budget cycle trying to figure out how they could cut corners to save some money and to take less out of our savings, it seems that this board can't piss away almost 1 million fast enough. I could think of several things off the top of my head that the money could be better spent on that would actually have a public benefit, like infrastructure/road maintenance, paying down our debt, putting $ back into our savings, boosting emergency service responsiveness in remote parts of the county, etc. There are many other higher priorities of government that are being cut back because of lack of funding.
Development rights only have value as when there is a potential for development. Taking away that potential means that we are paying money to devalue the land. What is the return on investment for the public at large? NOTHING. It is a total loss for the taxpayers and the local government. Local gov't gives up a say in the land use and the public is forever kept off the land; it is not like buying land for a park or other publicly accessible use.
If a transaction like this were to be undertaken, it should be done through private funding. Public funds should only be used for public purposes, not to pay off an individual so that his land will be forever inaccessible to the public who is paying for the purchase, as well as placing the land outside of local control. This is also outside of the Constitutional authority of the federal government. Under what part of the Constitution does the federal gov't have the authority to take public tax dollars and hand them out to an individual so that the government can control his land and expand its power? No wonder we're 15 trillion in debt as a nation. Why would our commissioners even consider partnering with the federal gov't to violate the Constitution and spend more taxpayer dollars irresponsibly?
In 2006, many people thought the world was in a crisis due to global warming. Propaganda then and now used hysteria to create an incentive for people to give up their property rights and other individual rights for the greater good. Part of this agenda suggests that we have limited resources, so it is best to let the state rather than “irresponsible” individuals manage those resources. Another aspect is that because we have limited resources, we need to be concerned about population growth. This is all a means to expand government control while diminishing the role of the private sector and the individual.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, this is all part of Agenda 21. Whether we have ICLEI locally or not doesn't really matter. We are doing the same things that those with ICLEI are doing to push for "smart growth" and "sustainable development". This part of what is happening is described in chapter 7 of the Agenda 21 charter. It is just one piece of the big puzzle, but it is an important piece because it takes private property out of the control of private individuals and local government and puts it in the hands of the feds. You have to read the rest of Agenda 21 to get the full picture of the marxist utopia that is envisioned in the document. http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/res_agenda21_07.shtml Any commissioner who supports this is complicit in implementing Agenda 21. For more information on Agenda 21, please read: http://americanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/ICLEI-special-...
More information on the connection between this program and the goals of Agenda 21 are explained below. All information has been taken directly from the United Nations website as well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Direct quotes from the sites are placed in quotation marks.
The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is mentioned on the UN website as being a tool for implementing Agenda 21:
This document answers a question posed by the UN Council on Sustainable Development regarding how committed the US is to implementing Agenda 21.
Specifically: "Are there objective ways of measuring political commitment? What are the relevant indicators? Which indicators are most useful from your perspective? (e.g., New legislation enacted, Policy announcements, Budgetary allocation and support, Prominence of relevant institutions, Level of media interest, etc.)"
In response, the US listed a variety of programs to illustrate its commitment to the agenda of sustainability. Page 7 of 44 lists the Farms and Ranch Lands Protection Program as one way this agenda is being implemented at the federal level.
"Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program: The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program is a voluntary program whose purpose is to protect agricultural lands by limiting non-agricultural uses. Funding is available for up to 50% of the purchase price of a conservation easement. The program is administered through approved state, local, and non-profit entities who arrange for the purchase of development rights on private lands and then hold and manage these conservation easements in perpetuity."
In addition, on the USDA's website under the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers the farm and ranch lands protection program, various references are made to Agenda 21 implementation.
Local Agenda 21 is a charter for local authorities to promote sustainable development. Cooperation and participation of local authorities is seen as vital in education, mobilizing, and responding to the public. About 100 local government councils support Agenda 21."
Another mention from the website:
"LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
This is the inaugural letter of the International Task Force on Land Degradation under the auspices of the International Society of Soil Science. The importance of land degradation to the quality of the environment and food security in general has been recognized by earth scientists. With the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and with the release of AGENDA 21, it has taken a special significance. This has resulted in political recognition of the process as being a potentially devastating one and for which a concerted effort was necessary. "
then again in that same document:
"2. Land quality and early warning indicators of land degradation: The FAO/UNESCO/UNEP/World Resources Institute all provides data on global assessment of soil degradation, but this data is very subjective to quantify the soil degradation problem.
3. Land productivity and land use options; Sustainable land management is the key to harmonize the environmental and ecological concerns of society faced with the economic realities of producing adequate food and fiber and ensuring a basic minimal quality of life.
4. Decision support systems: Decision makers, in particularly environmentally-sensitive countries with limited natural resources, are expected to make technical decision that are ecologically, economically, and socially acceptable. AGENDA 21 of the Rio Conference in 1992 emphasized this."
And again in another document: "The discussion session on Friday June 14, was focused on how to deal with land degradation considering chapter 10 of AGENDA 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development."
And Again in another document:
"TASK FORCE ON LAND DEGRADATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF SOIL SCIENCE
AGENDA 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development emphasizes the need and proposes a wide range of activities to address land degradation in general and desertification in particular. As a response to this challenge, more than 100 countries have signed the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) in 1997...
Dr. Hari Eswaran, Chairman USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington D.C."
And Again in another document:
"The problem was discussed in the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. The conference produced an action oriented document known as Agenda 21 is devoted to the management of fragile ecosystems and combating desertification. Subsequently, the UN General assembly resolved in the same year to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification (INCD)."
And Again in another document:
"World in Transition: The threat to Soils. 1994 Annual Report of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. Publ. Economica Verlag, Bonn, Germany. 225pp.
This report has probably not received the wide circulation it deserves and anybody interested in soil degradation will benefit significantly from the ideas and approaches in the monograph. The main section of this report deals with the global threat to soils. The importance of soils for the ecosphere and the anthrosphere is demonstrated using soil-related environmental trends and their interactions. The Report considers that soil degradation as an important component of Global Change was not adequately dealt with in AGENDA 21. They emphasize the fact that the consequences of land resource use especially as a result of population growth, will clearly precede the terrestrial effects of climate change over the next few decades."
The Agenda 21 Charter is multidimensional. It has many tentacles in all levels of government and has utlilized NGOs for its implementation particularly at the local level. Land aquisition by government is one piece of this, but it is a big one. Private property rights are foundational to America. These contracts take away those rights into perpetuity, not just for the landowner now, but for generations into the future, who had nothing to do with the contract. These choices to turn land over to the management of the state, and worse, the federal government will forever change the landscape of America, both literally and metaphorically.
Some other interesting articles on this:
Make no mistake. Whatever "good" intentions are paving the road to this PDR, there is a bigger picture that should be considered. Please show up to the public commissioner's meeting on Tuesday, June 19, at 2 PM to speak on this. If you would like to see the agreement between the Cecil Land Trust and the Federal Government, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 410-620-7667.