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Jack Lynch, Editor
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Jack Lynch, Editor
Note: Commentary and viewpoints on this website are the sole opinions of the writers and do not represent in any way any organizations of which they may belong, promote, or by which they are employed.
July 10, 2007
by Jack Lynch
On July 18th when the Frederick County Commissioners affirm their rewrite of the New Market Region Plan the clock will start ticking on the entry of a legal challenge to the changes, and while it may come, it will ultimately fail because the changes encompass a broader and truer picture of the impacts of the growth designated in the previous iteration of the plan, and because the climate for change has shifted in the past two years and through the last election.
New Market is losing nearly 7,000 potential homes because the infrastructure was not ever going to be there and the money to place it was not coming from the homes or the state or the county – it simply wasn’t economically feasible to build those homes. We as citizens no longer wanted to mortgage our tax future and tie it to solving problems created by development profiteers.
Today, on July 4th we can celebrate this new compact between citizen will and official will. We can commend our good government, our progressive planning and our renewed vision of what in Frederick County is called special, and a vital community and lifestyle – why we will not stand to become another Montgomery County, or allow the pressures of development to overtake reason, as in Loudoun County.
We are on the verge of building for ourselves a cleaner, greener, and smarter vision of how we can accommodate growth without losing our values – open space and working farms, history and neo-urbanism. It is a vision of sustainable development. It is not sprawl, or auto dependent suburbs. It is greenways and stream protection, it is transit oriented growth and transit enhanced communities. It is low impact and conservation design. It is forest restoration and watershed protections.
You must wonder, as the voices of inevitable growth ring out – when will the last house be built in Frederick County? When will the last farm be taken to contract for development? When will the traffic woes no longer be increased beyond the planned capacity of roads? It is a lesson that will come hard, much harder than we even imagine.
For while we may shift our growth patterns and change our regulations, we are impacted by the failures of outlying areas to define growth in better ways – the cars will clog the roads from Washington County and perhaps even beyond. The multitude of minor municipalities of Pennsylvania will yield to greater growth than jobs and roadways can accommodate. Many of these impacts will be felt here.
It will be unlikely that we will change that until we have a larger entity making regional decisions on these growth impacts, and that will not occur because it involves giving up some autonomy and conceding to the wishes of other interests, no local politician will promote handing basic decisions to another entity easily. It will result in citizen myopia about their power to control their destiny and evoke aggressive campaigns against it.
Even the sacrosanct power of the Federal government will have to come to heel against the interests of the regional collaboration of communities to effect a real change, not by spreading its impacts at will and molding places to its effects and decisions.
But larger good only comes from larger combinations of power and economic strength, and the problems facing our future will require a larger perspective and greater cooperation. The solutions to big issues, like water supply, transit, economy and revitalization only grow out of broad mandates.
And we’ll be challenged by retrenchment among the forces for greater building and increased population, zoning, and development. Already on the horizon is a northern Frederick like the segment south of the City, and road enhancements will likely bring to life an Urbana II concept. Route 15 North will start to succumb to look like a Rockville Pike pattern of development.
Who can say today that twenty or forty years out we will not find much of our efforts for naught? So far, history appears to teach us otherwise, unless we can assemble a consensus, and a source of political power and will that trumps the small concerns of small governments without taking away their vital voice in local issues.
We can’t have it both ways – man the trenches when power lines propose to cross our land, and achieve a unified regional vision that protects a little bit of each area’s beauty and environment with some flexibility on when and where long term decisions planning are slated and decided.
Unfortunately, the current model suggests we will fail to develop a model beyond those smaller self interests, unless even greater pain ensues our community through growth, traffic woes, unresponsive and outright disregarding politicians, water crisis measures, and a host of deficits to our overall quality of life.