- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County Planning Commission has approved and sent to the county commissioners the tier map required by the “septic bill,” SB 236. This map was not prepared by county staff but by a builders’ and land developers’ group known as BGI. The map allows the creation of potentially thousands of new building lots in the rural areas of the county.
On July 15, 2012, President Obama said, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you did not build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
The point he was making was that there is a public investment in private activities. Some in the private sector do not like to acknowledge that much of what they do is only possible because of public investment, also called subsidies.
The president named some public subsidies, but there are more, such as lower taxes on undeveloped land, tax incentives, depreciation allowances on equipment, commodity price supports, technical assistance, crop insurance, water supplies and research. None of this public investment is recognized by the recipients as reasons to be considerate of the public interest.
For most of the last 40 years, I have been involved with various forms of land use. In that time, almost every advocate for a private development has talked about the need for balance. What they mean is getting their share, as they see it, of the public’s natural and fiscal resources.
The natural resources that everyone wants a share of all come from the resources that were here in the beginning. Every generation has taken their share, but there is no more land or water than we started with. But when we started there was more forest, cleaner air and water, and more fish and wildlife. Private developers say they are seeking balance between their private interests in land and the public interest. It is interesting that when people talk about their rights and their plans for the land, they seldom talk about their responsibilities to their community or any consideration of the costs of their plans to the public. They see these subsidies as their due; they believe they are entitled to the government’s support, that is, your fiscal resources.
Another kind of subsidy is when public natural resources are degraded without any compensation. These more indirect subsidies are not easily quantified and in the past have been ignored, but the loss of environmental quality incurs real costs to the public.
For example, in 2013, Charles County will have to decide how much every home and business will have to pay to improve the quality of stormwater discharges. If the water quality of Mattawoman Creek continues to be degraded, Charles County will lose the jobs and tax revenue that are dependent on the creek. In addition, county residents will be required under both state and federal law to pay to restore the Mattawoman to meet water quality standards. It is obvious that unless the environment is protected, it is not just the size of everyone’s share of environmental resources that is reduced, but the quality of life for each successive generation is diminished.
Until the direct and indirect costs of growth are managed, the public will continue to pay more for reduced public services.
The tier map approved by the majority of the planning commission continues the growth of rural subdivisions with their attendant costs to the public. There was no consideration given to the fiscal or environmental impacts of more intense scattered rural development.
The approved tier map is unbalanced in every respect and should be rejected by the county commissioners.
Joseph Tieger, Port Tobacco
The writer is a member of the Charles County Planning Commission.