WCD will only push more into poverty

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

In the Jan. 13 edi­tion of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, it was re­ported that a stag­ger­ing 32 per­cent of Charles County res­i­dents are fac­ing se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial strug­gles by a study from the United Way (“ALICE re­port shows new data on Charles County work­ing poor”).

“ALICE — As­set Lim­ited In­come Con­strained Em­ployed. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, 25 per­cent of peo­ple in Charles County are ALICE, while 7 per­cent of Charles County res­i­dents are al­ready liv­ing in pov- erty. ALICE is a United Way acro­nym which rep­re­sents the grow­ing num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies who are work­ing, but still un­able to af­ford the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of hous­ing, food, child care, health care or trans­porta­tion.”

Thirty-two per­cent of Charles County res­i­dents — our neigh­bors, our friends, our fam­i­lies — strug­gle to put food on the ta­ble, to keep the lights on and live one emer­gency bill away from poverty. Let me pro­vide you a real num­ber: That is al­most 47,000 peo­ple, one out of ever y three peo­ple you see in and around your day-to-day life. Your child’s friend at school, your co-worker you walk by ev­ery morn­ing, the cashier at the gro­cery store and the se­nior cit­i­zen strug­gling to re­main in her home. What’s worse, Charles County scored not only just “poor” for hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, but last in the en­tire state of Mary­land.

Three of the five hard­est hit ALICE ar­eas in Charles County are in the western part of the county. Ironic, given the ex­treme push by County Com­mis­sion­ers [Peter] Mur­phy, [Ken] Robin­son and [Amanda] Stewart to down­zone 9,500 prop­erty own­ers in the same re­gion into a fi­nan­cially dev­as­tat­ing and un­known newly-cre­ated wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district.

What does this mean for Charles County res­i­dents? In­creased real es­tate taxes for the fourth time since these com­mis­sion­ers have taken of­fice, de­creased prop­erty values and — as hous­ing sup­ply con­tin­ues to spi­ral down with over­reach­ing gov­ern­ment poli­cies on pri­vate prop­erty rights, such as the pro­posed one house per 20 acres for de­vel­op­ment — high de­mand will push af­ford­abil­ity fur­ther out of reach for thou­sands.

Imag­ine this re­port just a few years af­ter this wa­ter­shed zon­ing is ap­proved. These are all ques­tions the South­ern Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­al­tors, its 1,500-plus mem­bers and hun­dreds of res­i­dents over the last two pub­lic hear­ings of the plan­ning com­mis­sion have been ask­ing county of­fi­cials to an­swer. Why has the county not pro­vided an in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial im­pact anal­y­sis study when so many have asked for it, on the record? Go to www.stopthecharle­scoun­ty­down­zon-ing.com to ask this ques­tion for your­self.

Vot­ing to ap­prove this con­tro­ver­sial wa­ter­shed district will only push more peo­ple into poverty and more of our Charles County pop­u­la­tion into the ALICE cat­e­gory; it di­rectly tar­gets an al­ready hard-hit area, as the United Way study high­lights. This is a hu­man is­sue first be­fore any­thing else, some­thing no one else has spo­ken about, and we thank the United Way for their timely re­port.

Most of the op­po­si­tion agreed that re­turn­ing to the orig­i­nal sub­mit­ted plans from the Feb. 8, 2016, hear­ing would sat­isfy all par­ties in­volved. Tes­ti­mony from af­fected res­i­dents in a stand­ing-room-only crowd ended state­ments to cheer­ing ap­plause, wav­ing signs and a room full of emo­tional pride only we have in Charles County.

Stories in­cluded those of the Henry fam­ily, who bought land and have handed it down gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion af­ter be­ing freed from slav­ery, but will see their legacy end with this mo­tion; the Smith fam­ily, who bought land for their grand­chil­dren and now can’t build a home, but re­ceived the tax as­sess­ment two weeks ago with ex­po­nen­tial in­creases for the next three years; and the count­less oth­ers who have tended to their lands, paid their taxes and have raised the next gen­er­a­tion of Charles County will now see their prop­erty go from their own to “con­ser­va­tion” or, as was well put, con­fis­ca­tion.

As the ALICE ar­ti­cle states, this hard-hit re­gion has al­ready learned to rely on churches, char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions and one an­other to get through each day. These are real peo­ple and not dol­lar signs — the op­po­si­tion to this down­zone is a com­mu­nity and we stand strong to­gether.

The num­ber of con­cerned res­i­dents at each hear­ing out­num­bered those in fa­vor of the district — 13 to one in Novem­ber. On Jan. 9, out of 70 speak­ers, only 15 spoke in fa­vor with two of those com­ing back the sec­ond night to say they had changed their mind. Not only

Lisa Van Tas­sel, Hugh­esville The writer is the pres­i­dent of the South­ern Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­al­tors.

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