The Honorable George M. O’Donnell,
March 8, 2001
I offer my written testimony, confirming my opposition to intensive development in the critical area. One house in 20 acres, and minimum buffers of 300 feet from tidal waters, is all that nature intended in the wetlands that protect our bay, and its tributaries. I do not buy the argument that such a mistake is inevitable, or that the rights of an individual property owner are more important than the environment, the safety, and quality of life for all.
I have enclosed pictures of a gravesite on the Bell property. ( Read Related NEWS STORY ). The birth date on the headstone is 1829, so it is possible that there are other graves nearby that were once marked with wooden crosses. I have not heard any disclosures about a cemetery on the Bell property, and I am writing because of a story in the Baltimore Sunpaper on March 4 about a family in Bishopsville, who found out that the home and lot they had purchased, was on a cemetery, and the bodies were still in the ground.
I take exception to the attempt by the Hovnanian group, to monopolize the hearing on Tuesday, February 27. I understand that they served food and cocktails at a restaurant to attract “supporters”, and brought them to the hearing at 5:30, so they could get them all signed up to speak; after the 45 minute advertisement to which we were subjected. I live on Kent Island, and pay taxes, but had to leave work early, and come to the hearing without dinner. Many residents had to bring young children in order to attend, and could not stay any longer than the hours monopolized by the Hovnanian group. It is an outrage that the “Hovnanians” attempted to circumvent this legal process by bringing a bunch of outsiders, some of whom may have been in it for a free lunch, and launch a virtual filibuster. It is ironic that some of them bragged about what great citizens they would make. I was particularly offended by Kathy Bittorf’s misrepresentation of her family, as poor farmers struggling to pay their taxes. Mr. Bittorf bought that property as an investment, not because he was making a living as a farmer. In fact he owned several major car dealerships. During his lifetime, much of what is currently rented to a farmer was a landing field for airplanes, and the welcome mat was out to anyone who happened by. Other wealthy landowners have recognized their stewardship of our natural treasures, and have taken action to protect the lands that they owned, for all time.
I am hoping that at future meetings, a procedure will be in place to prevent such an abuse of process. I am also concerned about the weight that could be given to studies and forecasts that were intended to support the developer’s plans, not to enlighten our citizens and commissioners. As a Certified Public Accountant, and a Certified Internal Auditor, if I were to base an opinion on such a body of evidence, I would be deemed negligent. Any study of traffic, for example, must consider all of the risks, and the probability and cost of any possible negative outcome. Many volume levels of traffic should be analyzed to assess the effect of volume and gridlock on the probability of a hazardous occurrence. The study that was provided by the Hovnanian group did not even measure the volume of traffic on Sundays. Consider that no matter how much infrastructure is provided, that there are only two routes off the island. Consider what happens when an incident occurs on one of those bridges. How many people will die trying to reach emergency services? And how many deaths are worth the potential profits for the wealthy few?
Many of the arguments that I heard at the hearing come down to property rights, including the potential future right of an outsider who might want to move here. Historically, property rights do not give owners the right to trespass on the rights of others. The effect of dense population and impermeable surfaces on our fragile island, will not only cause a permanent detriment to the environment, quality of life, and safety of the people who live here, but will undermine the life of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The responsibility for protecting the bay is not just a local, or even a state matter. Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have all recognized that development in our wetlands must be curtailed.
Please act locally, think
globally. I beg you to vote with your conscience, to keep in mind
that you will be living with yourself for the rest of your days.
The power of greed and ignorance is undeniable, but none of this is inevitable.
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