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Throwing down the gauntlet.
Bill Evans, The Bay Times, May 23, 2007

  Corporate arrogance in America has been so pervasive during the past decade I thought I’d seen the worst of it, but K. Hovnanian proved me wrong. And apparently I’m not alone.

  "I didn't think it could get any worse, but it did,” said State Comptroller Peter Franchot after K. Hovnanian responded to his characterization of a 2003 DRRA settlement with the New Jersey developer as a "gag order against public officials” by writing a letter to current county commissioners (none of whom signed the agreement) demanding that they state they are not opposed to the permit in writing. 

  In the 18th century this would be equivalent to peeling off a glove and slapping your opponent in the face with it. 

  It is arrogance raised to a frightening level. And a perfect example of how corporate ethics have given way to a new found sense of power that has infused their executives with a sense of their own invincibility. 

  Franchot responded in a letter sent Monday to Eric Wargotz, President of the Q.A. County Commissioners. He wrote:

  "You were duly elected by the people of Queen Anne's County to represent

them and to advocate for them and I urge you to do so. Whether you support this project or not, the Board of Public Works deserves to hear from you as it deliberates this important growth and development issue."

  I’m beginning to love this guy. Hovnanian threw the gauntlet down. Franchot’s response was correct and courageous. I sincerely hope that, legal repercussions aside, the commissioner’s follow his lead. You can’t put a price on personal dignity and political courage.

  With all this in mind I had to laugh out loud (after I hawked up a hair ball the size of a beach ball) when I read what a spokesperson for a Queen Anne’s business organization was quoted saying about billion-dollar developer K. Hovnanian and the Four Seasons project.

  “People have to realize they (K. Hovnanian) really want to be part of our community... Why are we turning our backs when what we really need to do is embrace them?” 

  Embrace them? Right! And that Grizzly Bear you meet in the woods just wants a hug. And Osama bin Laden just wants to be your buddy, hang out, and have a few laughs over a beer. 

   Another representative of the business community talking about Four Seasons said “...the impact on the economy will be astounding.”

   But just who’s economy is he talking about? I think I know the answer to that, and I be very surprised if the impact of Four Seasons on Bill Evan’s economy will be astounding! 

  Right now, according to the news, the economy is great. But all I see around me are friends struggling to keep up with rising prices and every kind of fee imaginable buried in the small print of the invoices we get from government and the utilities. 

  So the only conclusion I can come to is that while the impact on K. Hovnanian’s economy will indeed be astounding, the impact on Kent Islander’s quality of life and our remaining natural resources will be catastrophic. But hey, that’s a small price to pay because, after all, they just want to be part of our community! 

  A very, very large, traffic clogging, part of our community.

Four Seasons revisited – with a vengeance!
Bill Evans, The Bay Times , May 16, 2007

I had to read it twice to believe what I was reading. Government officials were listening carefully and respectfully to citizens concerns. They were taking threats to the Bay’s environment seriously. And for the first time since Thomas Paine I could use the term “common sense” and government in the same sentence. 

I’m talking about news articles on last Wednesday’s Maryland Board of Public Works meeting to review K. Hovnanian’s request for a wetlands permit for the Four Seasons 1,350-unit development on Kent Island. Board members (Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp) voted to defer a decision until May 23 citing serious concerns about the location of the project, and the legality of the “gag order” on current county commissioners. Following are a couple excerpts from newspaper accounts, but if you haven’t already, I urge you to read the full stories that can be found at

   “How do you ever protect the Chesapeake Bay if you’re going to allow this kind of development in the critical area? It’s hard to believe local officials approved this development,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “This kind of development is just killing the Bay.”

 And in Sunday’s Baltimore Sun Editorial:
  ”Controversial from the start, the project found favor with pro-growth Queen Anne's County commissioners who were ousted in 2002 by outraged voters but signed the deal just before leaving office. Their replacements tried to void the approval but were sued by the developer, lost in court and agreed to drop their opposition to avoid a threatened $3 million in legal penalties.

  ”Now, as a third batch of commissioners watches the developer move through the final steps required before the retirement resort arises from farmland, the local officials feel compelled to hold their tongues. 

  ”This is outrageous, undemocratic and probably unconstitutional. Public officials, none of whom signed the 2003 settlement, can't be silenced in their duty to represent the interests of their constituents. Not in this country.” 

To give this issue historic perspective, here are excerpts from a Two Cents Worth column I wrote in March 2001. 

  ”I have this nagging feeling that we are being talked down to by people who don’t even try to hide the fact that they think we’re little more than a bunch of dim-witted rubes.

  ”A case in point is this quote from Four Season’s propaganda starting with Hovnanian’s assertion that ‘…we’ve worked closely with local residents, elected officials and adjoining communities.’  I don’t know how closely Hovnanian has worked with elected officials (though I’d sure like to know), but working closely with local residents? Get real!
 ” I won’t even honor their contention that they are ‘…protecting the environment’ of Kent Island. This is so preposterous that words fail me.
 “ It’s also interesting to note that Hovnanian has been silent on the traffic issue. Apparently, even their clever marketing consultants  failed to find words that would explain how creating a population base the size of Centreville on a tiny slip of land, bounded by water and Route 50, would not create traffic problems of unfathomable proportions.”

  I never dreamed that more than six years later this issue would still be alive, and not only alive, but offering new hope for averting forever this catastrophic threat to the Island’s quality of life and it’s irreplaceable, natural resources. 

  And perhaps just as important - restoring our faith in the democratic process.

KIDL web guy urges you to read more of Bill's columns from 2000 regarding Four Seasons. 

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© 2000 - 2007 Bill Evans.  Used By Permission.  All Rights Reserved.
Two Cents Worth columns appear weekly in the Bay Times in spite of the editor’s usual good taste and judgment.

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