For Developers, A Taxing Time
E.J. Pipken, a Republican state senator who often makes sense, described the proposed Chesapeake Bay Green Fund as “a shameless environmental money grab.”
That’s precisely why, unlike the senator from Stevensville, we support this bold plan to generate the big bucks needed for making progress in cleaning up the Bay.
In our view, the shame would come if the new Democratic O’Malley administration and the Democratic-run General Assembly did not act decisively to stem the Bay’s decline.
The Green Fund would manage growth by assessing developers outside Smart Growth zones a $2 per square foot fee on impervious surfaces that carry polluted runoff into the Bay and its tributaries. The assessment would raise about $130 million yearly, a portion of which would be awarded to farmers to help control their runoff of nitrogen-laden fertilizers.
Senators in rural areas complain that the fees would strike smaller counties disproportionately and in so doing hike the costs of housing.
Our response is that rural areas need protections even more than cities and towns. That’s among the reasons we admire a draconian amendment discussed by Del. Sue Kullen, a Calvert Democrat, to tax developers $1,000 per square foot for disturbing wetlands.
If the Green Fund seems a departure from the past, all the better. The state has paid too little attention to growth management and counties’ laissez faire development policies that end up damaging the Bay. The emergence of bigger dead zones of oxygen-deprived water and the decline of Chesapeake crabs and oysters underscores the need for fresh approaches.
The quotable Sen. Pipken borrowed from Alice in Wonderland in talking about the Green Fund and the potential impact on housing costs: “What’s down is up and what’s up is down,” he said.
We also recall words from Alice, who asked the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Replied the Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
When it comes to Chesapeake Bay, we want to get beyond identifying and studying problems to fixing them.
The Green Fund can take us part-way there and, over time, maybe even closer.