Carroll County’s rolling hills, working farms, and rural land shook today as we experienced a rare earthquake on the east coast. But the county is also experiencing a bit of a shake up over land use, property rights, environmental issues, and the Constitution. It seems that referring to the Constitution in the same sentence with development and the environment occurs as often as seismic shifts in Maryland.
The county’s commissioners are looking to change that. Leading that effort is Commissioner Richard Rothschild, who has taken exception to Governor O’Malley’s Plan Maryland initiative, which was released on the unsuspecting public in April by the Maryland Department of Planning. View the document here.
The 188-page document outlines a comprehensive plan for sustainable development and Smart Growth, which are themselves not without controversy. But the processes described to achieve the stated goals reach much deeper, into every aspect of our personal lives, including land use, transportation, business, energy consumption, food distribution, education, and social equity.
In my cursory read of the Plan Maryland document, although not blatantly evident, it is based on the idea that global warming is indisputable, and that development and environmental plans should be geared toward the greater good at the expense of individual rights. Access research documents for in-depth reading here.
Commissioner Rothschild said, “Our citizens do want us to preserve agricultural land and cluster development where it makes sense. The problem is that it comes with mandates for mass transportation, subway stations, government housing initiatives, and threats to our personal property rights.”
Mr. Rothschild said, “The most critical problem with Plan Maryland is that it takes decision making authority out of the hands of elected local authorities and places it in the hands of state officials who are not elected.”
Counties currently must comply with their Master Plans, and the Master Plans will have to comply with Plan Maryland. He says he wants to reach an agreement where the counties can collaborate with the state on the final version of the plan. The short amount of time for public input was a concern, as well as that the initiative is being pushed through what amounts to executive fiat. He said, “Plan Maryland will never be voted on by the elected state legislature. It was developed by a state agency.”
The commissioners are asking the state to extend the period for one year before signing off on the plan in order to give counties and the public time to collaborate. Mr. Rothschild said, “These plans are dogma, not fact based on verifiable science. All actions should go through a reasonable cost benefit analysis to be sure our efforts will bring about the appropriate results.”
Keeping decision making local is the goal of the commission. He said, “Nothing is better than what we have got in Carroll County. It makes more sense for other municipalities to model after us.”
That theme was reflected in recent previous actions of the commission in January. The commission voted to withdraw its membership from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). The international group provides training and resources to local jurisdictions on sustainability. The commission’s unanimous decision means that the county planning department no longer has the input of the ICLEI in their planning functions. The commissioners decided that their training was not what the planners should be getting, as the doctrine of the organization is not shared with the board. Mr. Rothschild said, “We believe the sustainability movement has morphed into a socio-political movement. Good environmental stewardship should replace sustainability. Smart Growth has been tainted by some of the same policies advocated by the ICLEI. That agenda doesn’t come wrapped in flashing lights, it comes wrapped in green saying sustainability.”
The county had been paying an $1,800 annual membership fee. Carroll County was the first county in the nation to withdraw its membership from the ICLEI. To view all the Maryland jurisdictions with ICLEI membership, click here.
Another environmentally related budget cut made at the January board meeting was the elimination of the county’s Sustainability Committee and the salary of the committee’s coordinator position, in excess of $100,000.
Currently, the commissioners are updating the county Master Plan, which, in a stroke of good timing, has come up for its periodic review this year. They will be adding a component usually overlooked or downright violated: the Constitution. The board plans to ensure property rights and the taking into account of the Constitution in its Master Plan. Mr. Rothschild said, “You can tell more about master plans by what’s not in them. They are silent on constitutional rights. We are mandating that our Planning and Zoning Commission insert affirmation of our citizen’s constitutional rights, specifically the right to not have property taken without due process and just compensation.” He added, “There is a recognition by local elected officials that we have become the last line of defense to protect our constitutional rights.”
There are two upcoming events in which the public can learn more about Plan Maryland and property rights versus sustainability. Thursday, August 25, Commissioner Rothschild will be speaking at the Northern Baltimore County Republican & Civic Organization at the Parkton American Legion at 7:30pm.
On Monday, August 29 from 6:30-9pm, the Carroll County Commissioners are hosting a Plan Maryland forum at the Carroll Community College. Public input in welcomed. See more info here.