|Dear Board of Commissioners,
I have put off writing to you on this issue because, frankly, words fail me. I am a resident of Talbot County and I am extremely concerned about the development pressures in both counties; as part of that concern I attend many public hearings in Talbot County and, although it requires a lot of citizen input, generally our commissioners (despite the wining and dining) eventually come back to supporting the concept of a rural community without "big boxes" and mega housing developments. I would suggest that you vote no on the Four Seasons growth allocation and then seriously consider a moratorium on all further residential and commercial development until the various govermnment departments and citizens have had a chance to establish the factual baselines for "growth decisions". The adoption by Easton of a 65,000 sq.ft. cap on new retail building was the result of much study during a three month moratorium. There were those who believed that little could be accomplished in that short time, and of course there were mighty wails from the developers. But it was the best thing that could have happened and you don't hear any wailing from anyone today. Instead all are proud that Easton Council members were brave enough to admit that they didn't have enough information to move forward with yet more shopping centers and big boxes.
I am quite proud of how hard the Easton town agencies worked during the Moratorium to obtain data and build a factual framework for their pending decision on the suggested size cap. I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say I was amazed what an orderly and successful process the moratorium work became. The police department particularly produced a lengthy report showing how big box stores accounted for a disproportionate share of their work load. The fire department reported that they would be unable to fight a big box fire with their current equipment. The costs to upgrade both departments were sobering. Esp. relative to the "returns" to the community ... and the damage to community owned small businesses.
These reports would not have been possible had the debate continued on in the "three minute sound bites" allotted to the public at hearings. For some reason the developer is always "considered innocent" in our system and allowed to speak to whatever length or to whatever depth they desire. They present slick lawyers and slick experts and slick PowerPoint presentations and the public, no matter how expert they may be, are still held to a mere three minutes.
I have attended the two huge meetings in the Kent Island High School, in September before the Critical Area Commission and recently before the Board of Commissioners. Two citizen presentations which stood out are the gentleman who eloquently stated that it was impossible for him to say what his life on Kent Island meant to him in three minutes. The other was Nick Carter who, despite true expert standing, and despite the need of the Commissioners to hear what he had to say, was also limited to three minutes. His depositing of a graduated cylinder of muddy water and bags of slime was mute testimony to how unfair and how slanted this method of "decision-making" is. To say nothing of the mute testimony of how profoundly your creeks and waterways will be affected by Four Seasons.
I am a research biologist by training and this sort of "hearing" would never pass for a sincere effort to get at the truth in scientific circles. And yet your "research" is just as important, perhaps more so. The decision you make will erase (or not) 300 years of history on Kent Island by destroying the historic communities and ways of life which have slowly evolved in concert with the land over those years. In scientific meetings no one is given any preferential treatment. All are free to speak and to publish their results and let the data speak for themselves. Fancy clothes and pretense have no place in science. In science each fact builds on the facts that came before them. Not so with the Four Seasons which will simply sweep aside all that came before in a rush of fat cat developers and ignorant-of-rural-community-life "retirees".
But at the KIHS meeting before the Board of Commissioners, instead of sticking to the facts relevant to Critical Area Growth Allocation decision-making (i.e. the impact of this development on the bay, its tributaries and regional habitat etc.) people were allowed to ramble on about how "tasteful" the furniture was in the "clubhouse" in some other Hovnanian development in New Jersey.
I found that extremely offensive. If you give that testimony any credence you are doing a profound disservice to your local residents who have spent many many many hours researching the facts and trying to bring them before you. This is not a popularity contest. This is not even a difficult decision. It is obvious to any observant person that 1) there is already too much human impact on Kent Island, 2) that the existing population who built these communities don't want to see their life's work destroyed and exploited and that the whole process is fatally flawed when there is no opportunity for reflective discourse with true experts on both sides.
What's the point in having critical areas legislation at all if it can be made meaningless by the doling out of growth allocation. This is more like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" than any scientifically based rational decision-making process. Only in this instance, not like on TV, the contestants don't even have to get the right answers. There are no questions. The winner is simply the loudest whiner. It is clear, even viewing this from Talbot County, that the developers have wined and dined (and whined) the proponents of this development and blinded them to the consequences of paving over this priceless beautiful useful necessary agricultural animal habitat waterfront area. Ditto for the Commissioners.
It seems clear from the various actions of the Board of Commissioners that there has to have been some serious wining and dining going on there too. How else does this inherently and vastly stupid project get more than passing notice? How else could such a rape of the communities and land of Queen Anne's get such serious consideration. How is it that the Commissioners can be so deaf and blind to their constituents? This reminds me of another TV show... Survivor. The watchword there is of course that "you might be the next person voted off the island". Whether or not the growth allocation for this project is approved, I am fairly certain that the outcome to that last question is all three Queen Anne's commissioners being voted off the island together in the next election.
Oh, and by the way, many of us in Talbot don't particularly appreciate the idea of perhaps 3,000 older people flocking to our marginally functional regional hospital or our "fully booked, overworked, not-taking-any-new-patients" doctors". Or prematurely filling up Easton's Midshore Regional Landfill with the Four Seasons trash.
Please do us all a favor and VOTE NO to growth allocations to Four Seasons.
Rebecca P. Ellison, Ph.D.
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