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July 25, 2006
by Jack Lynch
A new group called the Alliance for Frederick County states its purpose as to inform citizens of the ways to achieve economic growth and educate voters. They have recently taken ads in the News-Post to say that they see a brighter future for Frederick County with high paying jobs, affordable housing, lower tax growth, and adequate roads and schools. Also they say that the upcoming election should be based upon leadership, responsibility, economic vitality and factual information. Who could disagree with such a laundry list of laudable goals?
The Alliance is one more builder dominated group attempting to sway the election towards higher growth, and pointing at our adequate public facilities ordinance as one of the roadblocks to their achievement of free reign over the planning and development of Frederick County.
Their Treasurer, Hugh Gordon has proven particularly adept at fear mongering and finger pointing, and I am the proposed victim of his diatribe. I had suggested in a letter to the Frederick News-Post (FNP) on 7/18/06, following my last column in this space - that it was time politically, to put the growth machine to rest. What I had said, in response to a Blaine Young attack letter in the FNP on 7/12/06, was that Commissioner Thompson and candidate David Gray had the best interests of residents at heart in their slow growth views.
In a letter to the editor in the FNP on 7/23/06, Gordon stated that…” The following residents of Frederick County were put on notice recently that they should start packing their bags and prepare to leave: If you’re a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, a bricklayer, in the heating or air conditioning trades, or for that matter any building trades person, you’re not wanted… residents like Jack Lynch are dismissing you.”
There is a great divide in rhetoric and reality apparent in this charge. I am not opposed to growth, I think that much of it is inevitable and halting all growth is not the will or in the best interest of the citizens. What I stand for is the balance of growth and infrastructure planning and the preservation of other values like farming and open space.
To get personal – the preponderance of generations of my family were farmers. My father was an electrician by trade, later a foreman, then overall construction foreman, and lastly a buyer for all construction trades. I do not dismiss my father, I’m well past those kinds of emotional struggles of father and son, nor do I discount the value, work and community participation of anyone connected with solid blue collar labor or construction trades.
What they do not tell you at the Alliance – is that many of these trades people already live elsewhere, not in Frederick County. The labor counts are easily accessible. And that much of the work is done by immigrant laborers. I’d like to see any of the builders groups do a study on their construction workers – salary, households and economic impacts in Frederick County.
The forces that define growth here are larger than the builder’s struggles with elected leaders or local regulations, they are actually market forces that are far beyond their control. They in fact have the full positive advantage of those forces.
Homes here sell for great prices and profits, because jobs and home prices in adjacent areas are an economic engine for our market. This is one of the greatest times for a builder to be working in Frederick County, you can do little wrong.
What they don’t like, is that they cannot unleash unbridled growth without regard to citizens, government, or a stable economy, which regards growth within supply and profit bounds as a least risky environment.
If they talk of going elsewhere, it is because they can turn the growth machine faster there. If they talk of elections, it is because they like their lock on the three hands for the growth machine. They made an investment in the upcoming election, and they plan to profit from it.
Growth and its impacts will be a constant issue, and it will take more than Frederick County to come to just terms for its results and vision, it is a regional and state problem that is receiving wide attention. But it is clear that the New Market Regional Plan has resulted in an abrogation of both state and county planning guidelines, and it is not contemplating the proper responsibility for growth within infrastructure and broader community goals.
It is also clear that our community leadership has failed and needs to change, and the voting box looms ahead, and that sort of public uprising against their favored growth machine candidates is what the Alliance fears most of all.