Greens Seek Members,
Want U.S. to Leave Iraq
As the U.S. occupation in Iraq continues to take a heavy toll, support for the war is waning. Resentment over the many U.S. and Iraqi lives lost raises doubt about U.S. motives. The Green Party has never supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq because it advocates nonviolent solutions to conflict. The Southern Maryland Greens, with the Maryland Green Party and Green Party U.S., call for an end to the U.S. occupation in Iraq and meaningless end of lives. Too many have already been sacrificed.
The Greens' principles also include social justice for all people, regardless of age, sex, race or lifestyle. Greens believe in grass-roots democracy and ecological wisdom. The Southern Maryland Greens have focused on issues such as universal health care, protecting civil liberties and preserving the rural character of St. Mary's County. If you, too, feel there are unanswered questions and share these values, please consider joining the Southern Maryland Greens at a potluck picnic from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at Laurel Grove Park. For information call 301-472-4279.
Honors Heroes of 9/11
There have been terrible days in American history, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and this generation's worst day -- Sept. 11, 2001.
These days shape the way we live and behave. As for Sept. 11, 2001, the wounds are still very, very deep. Since that day, we have memorialized the date with a series of somber events that always feature a moment of silence.
We should never, ever forget what happened on this most tragic of days.
I will never forget that day. It certainly is the most horrible day I can remember since I was in Great Mills High School as a freshman and we were shocked to find out that President Kennedy had been killed. The sense of sadness and dread was enormous.
However, the Sept. 11 attacks by terrorists far eclipsed even the assassination of a popular president. On Sept. 11, more than 3,000 innocent victims died at the hands of terrorists in New York City at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.
I know exactly where I was on that terrible day. I was at home preparing to go to a meeting at the St. Clement's Island-Potomac River Museum when I watched the television in shock as the airplanes flew into the Twin Towers.
Soon after, the Pentagon was hit by another plane and rumors were rampant that Washington was under siege. As that and subsequent days passed, I heard numerous stories about the heroic efforts of the fire and rescue workers who risked their lives to save as many people as they could. The odds when they went in were not good, but they didn't think twice about it. These men and women -- many of whom perished -- saved countless lives.
Each year since that awful day, I have participated in several solemn memorial services. The year after the terrorist attacks that changed our world forever, I was invited to a local school in my district. I joined the school population to circle the flag. Everyone in that school was standing, surrounding our U.S. and Maryland flags while we participated in the service. It was extremely poignant. Schools will not be open this Sept. 11 because it falls on a Sunday. I am sure most of our churches will have special commemorations at their services.
This year, I will attend church and then head to Annapolis to participate in a ceremony that I believe is extremely appropriate. On that day, I will be at the groundbreaking for the Maryland Fire-Rescue Service Memorial. This memorial will honor all Maryland fire and rescue workers who have died while on duty over the years.
I can't think of a better place to be on this hallowed day than at the location where the Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Memorial will stand. The organization in charge of the monument specifically chose Sept. 11 as the date to hold this groundbreaking ceremony in remembrance of fallen comrades in New York and at the Pentagon.
We will no doubt pause to remember those who crawled into the wreckage of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon to save lives, never to come out alive.
And we will also remember the first responders who quickly rushed to the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania as well as the bravery of the passengers -- knowing they faced imminent doom -- who voluntarily chose to overtake their captors and downed their own craft rather than causing mass casualties at either the Capitol or White House, where that plane was reportedly heading.
Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D)
Try to Reduce the Damage
From Lusby Plan Changes
There is a great discontent among the citizens of Lusby as a result of the inconceivable deviation from the Lusby Master Plan at the Lusby Town Center. Many people in Lusby worked hard with the county staff to develop a model Master Plan for the Lusby Town Center, one that the commissioners approved with the appropriate zoning. The plan provided for a town green with sloped roof stores clustered around it and parking located discreetly in the back. There was also to be a portion of the new parkway running through the center, connecting with the Lusby Post Office area.
Unfortunately, this beautiful Master Plan concept was aborted as a result of either incompetence or serious unethical maneuvering on the part of some of the Planning and Zoning employees who failed to inform the Planning Commission of the scope and seriousness of the zoning changes that would gut the approved Master Plan. The Planning and Zoning director, Greg Bowen, and the Planning Commission chairman both have acknowledged . . . the fact that the zoning was indeed changed. . . . This occurred without meeting any of the criteria for rezoning on proper legal proceedings as demanded by the State of Maryland, including a public hearing before the Planning Commission and the Calvert County commissioners.
On July 21, I attended a hearing by the Planning Commission, with Greg Bowen presiding. He defended the changes and the reengineering of the property, including the major violations to the Master Plan: (1) moving the parkway so that it became a road to nowhere; (2) granting the developer the privilege of doubling the commercial space; (3) allowing the original Town Green Concept and its surrounding commercial area to be changed to a minor area rather than the focus of the center; (4) allowing a huge strip mall to be built on the illegally zoned northern part of the site and permitting the elimination of the 'Sloped Roof Requirements.'
Bowen's defense of this atrocity was that the parkway had to be moved east to accommodate a roundabout, but he completely ignored the fact that his department was endorsing the parkway being shifted and being allowed to destroy what the people and the commissioners wanted. . . .
If the damage cannot be properly undone, at least it should be reduced by the county commissioners. The current plans are for this same developer to construct even more auxiliary commercial development buildings around the original Town Green site. . . . This should not be permitted with the other commercial development happening. Lusby will have enough. It is not a mini-Lexington Park!
The county commissioners should downzone this developer's land from Route 760 to the current Lusby Center entrance on Route 765 and turn the land into a Central Park that would benefit citizens. If this is not permissible because of the county's contract with this developer, then, at minimum, corrective action should be taken to downzone the area to open green space that is left undeveloped. But action must be taken immediately before the Lusby Master Plan is totally ruined.
Protect Bryans Road Group
Will Continue Its Work
The Charles County commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning amendment for the Bryans Road area July 25 in front of a room full of disgruntled citizens holding up signs reading "Delay the Vote. Resolve the Issues." The entire process took only 10 minutes.
During the six months leading up to this vote, Protect Bryans Road lobbied the commissioners and planning staff to make changes to their rezoning plan that allows and promotes high density development on more than 700 acres in the Bryans Road area. The plan allows higher densities in Bryans Road than anywhere else in the county. Hearing after hearing and meeting after meeting, hundreds of community members have gathered to voice their disapproval of the county's plan. We assumed county officials would take action in response to such a large public outcry.
We were right. Briefly. On July 8, Protect Bryans Road attended a meeting with the planning staff, Commissioners President Wayne Cooper and Commissioner Edith J. Patterson. We assumed this meeting to be the beginning of a real working relationship between the county and concerned citizens. We were delighted to have this opportunity. We expressed our concerns, the concerns of Bryans Road citizens, that high densities would lead to crime, traffic and further school overcrowding. At this meeting, one compromise was made: Staff agreed to allow private schools in parts of Bryans Road. We took this as a sign that the county was listening, and we believed there would be more meetings -- that real progress was on the way.
Seeming genuinely concerned, Patterson held a public forum on the proposal July 14. Hundreds came and voiced concerns about the effects high-density development would have on Bryans Road. Schools, crime, traffic and the environment were recurring concerns. It was great to think someone in the county was listening.
Unfortunately, no one in the county actually heard. There were no more collaborative meetings. We asked to continue to work with the county. Officials took no action.
Protect Bryans Road presented the commissioners with an FBI crime report that said that higher density in an area leads to higher crime. They took no action.
We provided a chart showing how overcrowded our schools already are. We urged them to reconsider this plan that would strike such an enormous blow to our school system. They took no action.
Citizens urged commissioners to consider a reasonable alternative to the Cross County Connector Extension letting the Connector link with Middletown Road and follow it to Route 228, which intersects with Indian Head Highway, a major artery into Washington, D.C. We simultaneously asked that significant safety measures be added to Billingsley Road. This alternative responds to community concerns -- it would preserve Mattawoman Creek and our bass fishing industry, make travel safer for citizens, and keep enormous volumes of traffic out of Bryans Road. They took no action.
Finally, we asked that they carefully review the Americans With Disabilities Act and consider disabled and elderly citizens in their planning. A large percentage of citizens in our area are elderly or disabled, and we asked the staff to require developers to build an adequate amount of accessible housing. Again, they took no action.
Protect Bryans Road formed six months ago with the goal of working for the best Bryans Road possible and defending the quality of life for all citizens in our area. We hold firmly to this mission. Our children should not be further subjected to overcrowded schooling; our streets should be safe; our water supply should be protected; and our environment should be preserved. We are sincerely disappointed that county officials have approved this plan, despite our concerns, but we will keep working until our concerns are heard and significant action is taken.
Bryans Road Decision
Shows Bad Management
Individual land use decisions by the county government greatly affect each and every one of our tax loads, and it is unfortunate that this does not often get the attention it deserves. Bad land use management decisions and a political system that does not adequately hold decision makers accountable cost all of us dearly. It's no wonder that the county commissioners voted to effectively increase our property taxes in the middle of a weekday -- while people were at work.
The recent approval of the Bryans Road rezoning plan is a textbook example of how poor decisions will impact every taxpayer in the county.
Only high-end new dwellings actually bring money into the county. The others cost the county more than they bring in, for infrastructure such as water, police, fire, etc. So when the county approved over 700 acres of high-density zoning in Bryans Road, which will likely be dominated by townhouses and apartment buildings, it will be county taxpayers who will subsidize supporting infrastructure, including school capacity.
The extension of the Cross County Connector beyond Middletown Road would likewise have a major impact on taxpayers throughout the county. Using what are outdated and possibly understated cost estimates provided by the county, this unnecessary stretch of highway would, on average, cost each family in the county approximately $2,000 -- just for its construction.
The actual figures would be much greater, because that estimate does not include the cost of running a 16-inch water main all the way from Waldorf to Bryans Road to support the new development. The county also hasn't given adequate consideration to what impact dumping high volumes of commuter traffic into Bryans Road will have on existing highways in the area. It would likely result in costly modifications to Indian Head Highway, and very possibly, in a few short years, a Bryans Road Bypass which taxpayers would have to fund.
The economic impact of the Cross County Connector Extension and its associated growth does not stop there. There is little question that dense development in Bryans Road and the connector extension would ultimately kill Mattawoman Creek, which is vital to the bass fishing tournaments for which the county is nationally renowned.
These tournaments bring at least $25 million annually into the county, and some estimates are as high as $50 million. If this source of revenue was lost, all of our county tax burdens would increaseor county services would rapidly diminish. Nowhere else could we find an income-producer of such size that would not require any additional supporting infrastructure.
The death of the Mattawoman would cost us in other, indirect ways. As a healthy stream, it actually helps to clean the water entering the Chesapeake Bay. As a polluted stream, it would heighten the pollution in the Bay, and add to the millions we are spending to try to clean up the Bay, which is worth billions annually to Maryland's economy.
The list of cost burdens that would directly result from the implementation of the Bryans Road rezoning goes on and on -- temporary school trailers at $80,000 to $150,000 each, higher retail costs resulting from higher crime, declining property values as a result of apartment and townhouse construction, etc. What is clear is that sound planning is infinitely more effective than costly and futile attempts to correct problems later. When major corporations first began automating a number of years ago, managers cut costs by providing minimal resources for planning (known as requirements development). The effect was that the business world was rife with examples of multimillion-dollar computer systems that, when completed, did not do what the companies needed them to do. They were frequently complete write-offs.
The managers in industry learned the value of sound planning; our county planners and commissioners apparently have not. During the work session to approve Bryans Road rezoning, David Umling, the director of planning, stated: "If we had started all of this today we could have very well had a different process. But, you know, with the amount of time that has been invested in this initiative . . . staff feels it's time to get a footprint on the ground and then we can work with it as it goes along."
The time and money invested in coming up with this plan may soon be dwarfed by the time and money that will have to be invested in trying to fix the multitude of problems the plan will create. Once done, a great many things cannot be repaired, and too often we, the taxpayers, must suffer the consequences. The irony, in this case, is that Protect Bryans Road provided the county a responsible alternate plan, at no cost, and was ultimately ignored.
It is important that all of us who pay taxes recognize how we are being affected, and that we let the county commissioners know that we do not want our money wasted on substandard or inadequate planning. . . . I would urge all taxpayers to make your views known to the county commissioners, letting them know your top priorities are better schools and public safety -- not subsidies for developers -- and to hold them accountable for your tax burdens.
Reelect Frederick, Stone
To SMECO Directors Board
Over the past few years it has been my great pleasure to serve on the SMECO board with two directors from St. Mary's County who are currently up for reelection: Purnell Frederick and Joe Stone.
Purnell Frederick is a true gentleman who always expresses a genuine concern for the welfare of not only our member-consumers but our competent and dedicated management team and staff. Joe Stone is an astute businessman who, as chairman of the committee that reviews our power purchases, has served SMECO well as we continually strive to secure the most economical power supply for you, our members.
I ask that you reelect these two gentlemen to the SMECO board at our annual meeting Aug. 31.
W. Michael Phipps