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Jack Lynch, Editor
January 5, 2005
Our State Delegate Rick Weldon writes in the News-Post on Sunday, November 28th that Governor Bob Ehrlich's asset stewardship of public lands is 'doing what should have been done years ago.' And he of course believes that the criticism is the political 'shame' of legislators who 'want a return to irresponsible… government…' Talk about blaming the victim!
There are several deep holes here, any of which can amply bury the complainant. Such as the cost benefit analysis of selling off preserved lands, the return on investment to the public of resale's that allow hefty tax breaks for politically connected investors and contributors, and the breech of promise when the State accepts lands into preservation at below market value from the former owners and turns around and takes advantage of that same land's development values.
Now there's a good property rights argument! The former private owner received less for his property in order to preserve it from development, the State breaks even on it's outlay while trampling the public good, and the developer gains not only the land and a tax advantage, but regains development profit potential, and in effect, on land that has now cost him nothing, and it was even better than a giveaway, because it cost the taxpayers in lost tax revenue that they must now replace.
And if we want to keep the land, our dollars at the
local level will go out towards buying land we already own as State
taxpayers! Dare local officials complain, it'll be payback time when
State funding of local budgets for roads, parks and projects is
But let's continue on the high road and seek the wisdom of the argument, that with a good inventory and analysis of these lands, we can both watch that public interest is preserved, and request that the funding be restored to Program Open Space to continue the land preservation process state-wide, and thirdly, demand that the Governor develop a plan to identify and target for preservation significant areas for future purchase. Let's call them Priority Preservation Areas (PPA's) to go along with the State's interest in defining Priority Funding Area's to promote development along the lines of smart growth around existing municipalities and infrastructure.
Increasing the public land preservation process would be a good out of an ill advised scheme by the Governor. Let's demand that we set a goal of preserving as much land as we allow to be developed, so that we at least keep pace with development and fund open space for parks, forests and stream protection. And let’s keep the process within existing agencies like the Department of Planning instead of further spending scarce State resources on it. We're in a budget crisis, and it seems a moral one as well.