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The Wealth of Nations
Monocacy land grab

Earl Bell

(2/2017) An attack on citizenís property rights is in the works that will harm residents and farmers in Frederick and Carroll counties.

The Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board (whose members are appointed by the counties) is tasked with recommending governmental policies related to The Monocacy River. More recently, The Board released their draft "2016 Monocacy River Management Plan."

The title sounds benign, but the plan is a killer. Shockingly, it recommends the counties take 8,000 acres of private property along the Monocacy River - to be under government control.

To many of us, our property is our biggest financial asset for which weíve worked our entire lives. Itís where we have our homes, our farms, and raise families. What The River Board is recommending in essence, is land confiscation through government regulations!

This is no small matter. Because when the government unnecessarily takes land or reduces the property rights of some citizens - it diminishes the freedoms and property rights of all citizens.

This action will devalue ownerís properties; impose unnecessary & excessive regulations; restrict reasonable land use; hurt the farming community and land owners; and intrude on privacy. All without compensation to owners and without regard for individual property rights. This goes way beyond the boundaries of reasonable governance.

Thereís a legal term for this called "regulatory taking" of land. Thereís a laymanís term too - itís called stealing. Any politician that supports this confiscatory and harmful plan NEEDS TO GO. They should be voted out of office or for disrespecting citizens, The Constitution, and individual property rights.

To be clear, Iím not anti-government. I believe our Republic by the people and for the people, is the best form of government in the history of the world. Having served as a Colonel in the Air Force, I devoted my career to protecting our nation. And as a citizen, Iíll continue to defend American freedoms, including property rights, that so many have sacrificed so much to protect.

Hereís the bottom line. Thereís a right way and a wrong way for the government to obtain private land they covet. The right way is to buy the land. The wrong way is to take it through a sneaky, back-door tactic of "regulatory taking." This is what is happening here.

A River Plan recommendation thatís causing an uproar - is the creation of a large, regulatory land setback/river buffer, extending deep into private property on each side of The Monocacy.

The buffer size is said to be 300 to 500 feet Ė but it goes way beyond 500 feet wherever the FEMA 100 year flood plain exceeds 500 feet, extending thousands of feet into private property in "numerous locations." (Chapter 10-1).

It cuts through farms, private land, and even encompasses peopleís homes, including my familyís residence. This is appalling!

The Board claims taking this large swath of private property for government control, is necessary for clean water purposes. This is a false premise without scientific basis.

An expanded land setback is unwarranted as effective river buffer requirements of approximately 50 to 150 feet, already exist. And scientific research from Yale University; The Army Corp of Engineers; and others, show smaller buffers are more efficient than larger ones (which have diminishing returns). For example, a 62 foot buffer filtered 89% of sediments, whereas a 160 foot buffer filtered only 4% more.

Moreover, the primary source of pollution to The Monocacy does not come from private property along the river Ė but from urban run-off and the 900+ square mile river basin. Additionally, countless regulations already exist that are successfully improving water quality. There is simply no need for additional regulations or a confiscatory land setback!

Itís evident this huge river buffer does nothing to solve the real problem Ė and instead, causes undue harm to property owners and farmers.

According to Mr. Byron Madigan (Water Resource Supervisor for Carroll County), "Putting a large buffer on a river already carrying polluted water isnít going to clean the water." Additionally, he stated thereís no scientific backing for the current proposed buffer width to support improved water quality.

Since a regulatory land setback makes no senseÖwhat is this really about?

Itís about a Government Land Grab for no genuinely justifiable reason!

Itís vital to stop such government over-reach, which breaches The Constitution and sets a terrible precedent. Itís also causing alarmed citizens to wonder, whoís land is next? Yours?

Thereís a reason why The Frederick County Farm Bureau; The Frederick County Association of Realtors; The Walkersville Town Council and numerous concerned citizens, are AGAINST the 2016 River Plan before itís finalized and submitted to the countiesÖitís a very bad plan!

So far, County Executive Jan Gardner, and The River Board have been dismissive regarding valid citizen concerns. They say the planís recommendations are suggestions - so best to wait and see what the final plan looks like after itís submitted to the counties for adoption.

But afterwards is too late! "Recommendations" need to be good (not bad) before the planís finalized. As a member of the County Zoning Board, I know The River Planís "recommendations" are not mere suggestions. Theyíre a framework for developing county land use, building, and zoning laws. Like the previous 1990 River Plan which was adopted, they end up becoming laws that directly affect citizens.

Folks are urging The Board to remove any land setback (regulatory or voluntary); The hypothetical ESA boundary lines; and other harmful recommendations negatively impacting property owners and the agricultural community. The plan also needs much clarity, as the language is vague - leaving provisions wide open for government action that could cause significant damage to owners.

For example, owners could be denied the ability to farm or build additions to homes since land use restrictions include "grading and construction" within the setback area. It also allows for "recreational opportunities" in the setback area which could include bike paths, trails, etc.. After sensibly connecting the dots, many believe the huge setback is really about a bike path and public access. Creating public access on private property (also known as trespassing) is unacceptable!

To our founding fathers, property was the front line of liberty. John Adams said "Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist." I fully agree, and hope you do too.

To view the River Plan, see:

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