I am writing concerning a reference in the Kent Island Defense League email list messages:
"There are quite a few articles
of interest in the Nov. 9-15 Queen Anne's County Record Observer.
One article is about the
residents of of Church Hill turning out in force to oppose the annexation
of 44 acres of land into the town to create a 108-house subdivision.
Their three town commissioners, in response to the opposition, voted the
annexation down. "Some aspects of the project appeal to me personally,
however, we were elected to represent the people of Church Hill and those
people, through verbal and written testimony voiced their overwhelming
opposition of the annexation. Therefore, we voted to deny the request,"
said Town Commissioner Charlie Rhodes.
First, let me congratulate the KIDL for its efforts to represent Queen Anne's County in the face of mounting pressure from developers who are indifferent to the human face of neighborhoods & communities. The fight to maintain some vestige of Eastern Shore life is being fought in many isolated places, and it is very useful to have this & other similar sites to learn of what others are doing & what problems they are facing. I am personally grateful to Mr. Koval from the KIDL who attended many of the key community meetings in our town and demonstrated a too-often lacking spirit of regional solidarity.
I am part of the community that is committed to sustaining the small town of Church Hill. As the Record Observer reported, our Commissioners were receptive to community concerns & denied the annexation request. The community recognizes the pressure under which the Commissioners were working, and very much appreciates their commitment to representing the town.
An approval would have facilitated the grafting a new 108 house development to Church Hill. Since there are currently barely 200 dwellings in the town, it is hard to underestimate the impact of the proposed large, curvilinear clone of a thousand other developments on this right-sized & wonderfully diverse community. Marshalling active community participation was not always easy. Not because people wanted the development, but because of the conventional wisdom that a community cannot stand against the power of a well-financed housing project. Ultimately, common sense brought most of the community together.
One short cautionary tale for us all on the Eastern Shore: the developer has an option on two tracts of land. One, 40 acres, is already within town limits & currently zoned residential. The other, 44 acres, was the object of the annexation petition.
In the course of presenting the housing plan, the developer presented himself as a reasonable businessman. Although his contractors made not-so-veiled comments (threats?) about what might be built on the portion already within town if the annexation was not approved, the developer made public statements that he would comply with the town's wishes. Specifically, he made statements to the effect that if the annexation was not approved so that he could not proceed with his total plan, he would not purchase the land & find another site. On the community's side, we behaved accordingly. No lawsuits threatened, no incendiary articles in newspapers, no personal attacks. People invested generously of their own time & money to present reasoned arguments why the development went counter to the best interests of the community.
Readers of this site will not be surprised to learn that in his first statement to the Record Observer after the annexation was denied, the developer was reported to have repudiated his previous statements. Despite significant testimony (all of which was copied to the developer's attorneys), he now is reported as stating that he intends to buy the land & begin developing on the portion within town.
Completely disregarding the many reasons against annexation & the development cited by the community, the developer, according to the Record Observer, says that he intends to "build.. houses on the property already located within the town limits to show the residents that they can honor his word and to display his work". Adding insult to injury, he added (again according the Record Observer) that he found the people who showed up at the meeting to be "smart & well educated".
It is clear that "it ain't over 'till its over".
It appears as though the developer has taken off the gloves. Church Hill has not gone to sleep nor has the community run out of options. It is unfortunate that the developer could not have taken the time to convene a meeting with representatives of the community and the Commissioners to at least consider options. Until that does occur, we have to consider that he intends to have his way regardless of the town's wishes. To him its a matter of dollars & cents. To us its a matter of our community & our homes.
Thank you for your time,
Richard E. Slacum
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