Vol. 10, No. 41

October 10-16, 2002

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Preserving Land: A ‘King-Sized’ Issue For Our Times

Occasionally in the gloomy news of today we hear a report that cheers us.

Such was the case with when we learned that the state Board of Public Works had approved a million-dollar deal keeping King Leatherbury’s Southern Anne Arundel County horse farm green and open.

Leatherbury, a prominent local racehorse trainer, is poised to sell the development rights to his 180 acres.

The transaction would make Leatherbury rich by most standards. But it makes all of us richer because it would end forever any chance that developers would turn his pastures into another subdivision or mall.

The steady disappearance of our rural land should be alarming to all of us — not just to Southern Anne Arundel and Calvert countians. Open and wooded lands give us vistas and, sometimes, places to experience nature firsthand. They give homes to the wild creatures we all value. They also act as massive natural filters. With so much built and paved all around us, we depend on those lands — whether we see them or not — to purify the air and water we share.

Yet given what we are seeing along Route 2 south from Annapolis, it looks like money that had been sitting in the stock market is now being redirected into paving paradise.

Sadly, there’s not a great deal we can do about it. The much-ballyhooed Smart Growth law deals primarily with cutting off tax money for roads and infrastructure that helps developers seal their deals. There are other land-saving programs: Open Space, farmland and woodland preservation and Rural Legacy, each with its own pools of funding and swamps of red tape to navigate.

Transactions like King Leatherbury’s are good news indeed. But we also must demand that our political leaders understand the stakes involved — maintaining the quality of life that becomes quickly eroded when greenspaces get carved up by subdivisions and strip malls, which lead to diminished aesthetics, congestion and polluted runoff.

For our part, Bay Weekly has been asking candidates for major office about their commitments to land preservation. You will see in full the responses from candidates for governor and Anne Arundel county executive when we publish the interviews in upcoming issues later this month.

In general, the candidates were noncommittal about maintaining the current levels of spending for preservation. Everybody thinks preservation is a good idea, but the Republican challengers are critical of every step their opponents have taken. On the Democratic side, Janet Owens, who’s proud of her administration’s 4,000 farmland acres preserved, doubts that such money will be there next time around. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend talks more about what’s been done than what she will do.

Thankfully, there are folks like King Leatherbury — who’s told us he needed to get his money out of those rolling pastures — who can tell a good deal when they see one. And there are programs that can make such deals happen.

Now, as voters, we need to make sure that our politicians understand that it’s not our generation’s right to build homes, shopping centers or marinas on every square foot of Chesapeake Country. As citizens, we need to lean on them to find the money to put in programs to stop that from happening.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly