Sending ‘mixed (and even wrong)' messages

Friday, Sept. 10, 2010

In response to the article, "New provision could alter development in rural areas" [Maryland Independent, Sept. 3], I was perplexed about the comments of Commissioner Sam Graves, who appears not to fully comprehend the situation, calling the provision "horrendous."

Simply said, according to new enforcement/requirements of a 2006 state law, if the county does not downzone more than 42,000 acres in preservation priority areas from one housing unit per three acres to one per 20 acres, the county is going to forego receiving substantial money from the state (specifically its share of the state's agricultural transfer tax revenues, plus $4.2 million a year in state land preservation funding).

The protective element for the PPA landowners' pocketbooks is that a transferable development rights program would allow these landowners to sell the rights from their land to a government entity (say, the Agricultural Preservation Board). The developer then purchases such rights of transfer from the government entity. This allows developers to transfer their rights from the protected sending area to a receiving area (for a specific project) that is designated for higher density development such as Waldorf.

In exchange, the developer can get increased density on land she owns in the receiving area. This is basically a win-win situation for the environment, rural PPA landowners and developers.

Mr. Graves further comments that he is worried about the downzoning provision as it might prevent the work force housing project for Cliffton on the Potomac from ever coming to fruition.

So, in other words, despite weeks of protests from the Cliffton community on the low-income housing project proposed for their community, Mr. Graves is still of the mindset that this is a good thing. As a Cliffton on the Potomac resident, it is alarming that Mr. Graves continues to be deaf to our concerns.

Mr. Graves is worried that the downzoning provision would prevent a proposed zoning amendment that the commissioners are now considering from happening. The amendment would allow multifamily housing that involves "clustering" in agricultural conservation and rural conservation zones to occur. The state's new downzoning provision does not allow clustering of housing to get higher densities in PPAs.

Again, the commissioners are strangely considering an amendment that is counter to the state's new provision and one that would cost the county millions of dollars in lost state revenue.

This is maleficent thinking and unconscionable leadership on the part of Graves and the rest of the commissioners. Mr. Graves' remarks in the article may be more pandering to a group of constituents to confuse them with his own confusion on what he describes as "horrendous downzoning."

The problem is he is sending mixed (and even wrong) messages to two groups of constituents: the folks at Cliffton on the Potomac and PPA landowners.

Angela Cain Lindsay, Newburg