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OPINION: Open Space Balances Private Profit, Public Good

Recent proposals to sensibly down-zone remaining tracts of open space in Perry Hall are emblematic of the social contract that is the basis for democracy in America.

Recently, there have been two of proposals to permanently limit the development potential of a series of properties in Perry Hall. Instead of these parcels potentially being available for dense residential or commercial redevelopment, they would be preserved as open space. These , put forward by , represent sound and sensible policy making.

I have been mystified to read some of the caustic comments posted to Perry Hall Patch in response to these announcements. It seems that some people happily defend the "right" of individual property-owners to have the potential for unlimited profit. Of course, these naysayers cloak this view with the notion that a down-zoning of specific properties somehow "devalues" the land, leaving the owner with a financial loss.

A look at the basics of real estate appraising dispels this misguided view. At the time that any property is up for purchase, its overall value is determined.  This process looks at: the size and location of the parcel, the condition of any buildings on it, and yes, the current zoning classification. Thus, at the time of transfer, the seller is able to set a reasonable price (allowing for an appropriate rate of return), based on current market conditions. In this manner, someone who buys a house, sells it years later to a new resident owner, has their right to reasonable profit assured.

The real reason some folks disagree with the concept of downzoning is because it denies certain property owners the future possibility of winning the development lottery, so to speak. How many times in Perry Hall's history did an individual property owner sell their home or other holdings to a developer, for a price far in excess of their actual value (based on existing neighborhood conditions), knowing full well that their old property had a very different future in store.

In these cases, developers like this leveled the existing individual homes, and replaced them with large-scale, dense residential complexes, or sprawling strip malls. As a consequence, such land sales required vast sums of public money to be spent to fund the infrastructure necessary (schools, roads, public water) to support this . One need only to look at the principles upon which our nation was founded to see that individual profit potential must be balanced against the broader needs of the community at-large.

American democracy puts the social contract theory of government into practice. In 1762, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined this theory as follows: "the right of any individual over his own estate is always subordinate to the right of the community over everything; for without this there would be neither strength in the social bond nor effective force in the exercise of sovereignty."

Founding Fathers like Jefferson and Madison designed America to embody this belief. By virtue of being Americans, we all surrender the possibility of unlimited, self-interested rights for a guarantee that our natural rights, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (as defined in the Declaration of
Independence
), are forever preserved. As a result, our elected leaders must balance the needs of the many versus the needs of the few, as they seek to promote the common good.

Tell us if you agree or disagree with open space designations in the comments.

David Marks June 19, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Mr. Redmer, I hear all the time from people on Patch and elsewhere who do not want a single new home to be built in Perry Hall. I have repeatedly commented that there must be a level of development to expand our tax base, and that we live in a system of private property rights. However, that must be balanced with the need to protect a degree of open space, and to accommodate our schools and infrastructure. The arguments you have laid out are fiscally unsustainable for government (i.e., subsidizing landowners for their "lost value"). They are just as unsustainable as allowing virtually unlimited development that requires hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure. We don't live in Philosophy 101. It's real world economics and balance, the type of moderation your uncle Al Redmer sought while President of the Perry Hall Improvement Association and state delegate. He dealt with an awful lot of development, and he tried his best, just as I have. That's all I'll say here.
Bart June 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Mr. Redmer lives in a Fantasyland. I support what Mr. Marks is doing.
You June 19, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Do you realize all the tax payer money spent to expand Honeygo Blvd. because of all those atrocious townhomes, condos and Honeygo Plaza? How about all those new red lights, sewage, sidewalks, and other infrastructure? How about the overcrowding in our local schools now? The affects of a few people selling their land for these massive projects hit every tax payer in the pocket. You are not a fan of "Property Rights or Freedom", stop the tea party talk. You are a fan of becoming rich at all costs using no responsible decision making. Sounds like those mega-corporations that love bailouts at the tax payers cost. What the point is here, land owners need to think about the greater good of their neighbors, and community as a whole. Every new 5.5 = me paying for new roads, sidewalks, expanded police protection, sewage, and other infrastructure. I know I am responsible with my land and will preserve it permanently for the greater good of everyone.
Emily Kimball (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 03:03 PM
UPDATE (June 19)—See Perry Hall's proposed open space, in photos - http://patch.com/A-vv2q Does open space classification needlessly devalue land, or does it provide a worthwhile community benefit? Tell us in the comments.
Laurie Wallace June 20, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Hi Mr. Redmer!! Your words are beautiful, and thank you for pointing me to John Locke. I am doing research here in northern California, because our county planning commission is going to be inserting words like "high density housing, open space, and infill" into our general plan. The United Nations sees private property as a means to create wealth, and therefore contributes to social injustice. The whole word is converting to sustainable development right now, and it is up to us and our local cities to kick it out right now, or we will soon be in dense population centers living near transit without our cars, and that is not freedom to me. Laurie
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Ronn, or the person now known as "Neither (D) or (R), I'll assume that since you didn't answer MY question, that you would not be in support of the County rezoning your property to "Neighborhood Commons"...so much for the greater community good... I don't know why I feel the need to answer all of your questions since you won't do the same for me, but what the hell...why not Yes I am aware of taxpayer funds that are spent on infrastructure...I also am aware that the development that was built was done so with the support and encouragement of the County Government... I am also aware that same space has been a great addition to the community, offering dining, retail, a grocery store, medical professionals, fitness facilities etc. along with a whole lot of new families that have made this a better community....As for the OVER-crowding in schools, well Perry Hall has been overcrowded for 20 years, maybe the Government should be more concerned with building new schools instead of limiting individual property rights. I know it is expensive and is not a simple process, but we've all known this has been a problem for decades, it didn't just sneak up on us...NOT TO FORGET, that the County's zoning laws ALLOWED this construction by zoning it at such a high density....hmmm, almost seems like the Government encouraged that development. to be continued...
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I also find it funny that you think you know who or what I am a fan of...you don't know jack$%# about me. I am for Property Rights and Individual Freedoms, come over and check out my bookshelf, I've been studying, reading and researching this stuff long before the "Tea Party" made their first sign...truth be told, I think the tea party has no clue what they are doing or what they believe in... your suggestion that i'm about getting rich at all costs and likening me to "mega-corporations" is again just plain stupid and wrong...If I was all about getting rich at any cost, I don't think that I would be doing what I do, I know for a fact I will never get rich as a public servant, yet I proudly do it because I love to help people...as for the taxpayer bailouts that you link me too...I was against them with ever ounce of my being...so like always, WRONG AGAIN What the real point IS Ronn, is that private property owners have rights...as with most rights in this country, those rights are held by the individual... The wants or wishes of the community DO NOT override the individual's right to their property... If in your seemingly "Communist" utopia, you want to infringe on an individuals right to their property for the GREATER COMMON GOOD, you best be prepared to step up and reimburse that individual for their loss, otherwise it is theft, or a tyranny of the Majority, or just an over-powering government...
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Mr. Marks, you speak of balance...well let's discuss that then...but first let's correct you misleading quote "(i.e., subsidizing landowners for their "lost value")" "subsidizing" Verb: Support (an organization or activity) financially. Pay part of the cost of producing (something) to reduce prices for the buyer. Oil Companies get subsidies...to lower the cost of fuel, to invest in expansion of production etc... What we are talking about here, and what I'm arguing for, is NOT a "Subsidy" The owners of this property have a LEGAL right to the ownership and use of this property, in that they also hold developmental rights in that property... The Property has an intrinsic value value, based on it's highest and best use. If you, or anyone is going to rob the owner of their developmental rights, and therefore the value of their property, you should COMPENSATE (not a subsidy) them for that loss...kinda like when government takes private property for "Public Use" the owners are COMPENSATED... next post will discuss this "Balance" that you claim to be searching for....I'll show you where to find it
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Mr. "Bart", you should copy-and-paste your comment and save it to your desktop...seems to be all that you say. Bring something good to the discussion or just sit back and enjoy the show
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Philosophy 101...ahh yes, Philosophy is fun... Though my arguments are not philosophical, they are real...and they are common sense "balanced" approaches...Mr. Mark's The only reason my posts contained references and quotes from/about Rousseau, Locke, Hobbs and Socrates is because your friend, Jeffrey Smith, tried to use them to dispute me...of course as you can probably see, His attempt failed miserably...he thought he was gonna get away with blabbering on about something he knows nothing about, or at least nothing FACTUAL about, probably figuring nobody on the patch would have a clue about Jean-Jacques Rousseau or his Social Contract Theory...oops Wrong. anyway let's move on to solutions and balanced approaches...
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:30 PM
So, Mr. Marks...Seems like we have a problem here...As County Councilman, you are faced with balancing the property rights of landowners (Protected by The Constitution, and federal/state laws) and the wants and desires of some vocal constituents who wants to drive past somebody else property and see trees instead of houses...Now when trying to solve a problem, you first must begin with your personal principles and values, since I won't speculate what yours are Mr. Marks, I speak of mine... To me everything begins with the Individual Rights & Individual Freedoms that this nation was founded upon...I have read a whole lot of history and documents, and I never recall seeing anything written about "Community rights to someone else private property" or "Community Rights to open spaces" I'm just saying So that's where I come from...That's MY foundation, so on to problem solving and finding a compromise...The Problem is Balancing Individual Property Rights with Community Wants and Desires... and to me there are 3 options; 2 extremes and 1 balanced compromise....
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Option 1; Maximize Private Property Rights This option would be to protect and preserve the rights of individuals...now some would argue for UNLIMITED RIGHTS TO PROPERTY, which I think is how you are trying to frame MY stance...in a world like that, we would have no zoning laws at all, and I do not argue for that...my argument is a balanced approach....but this argument would say that people can do whatever they want with their property but they would be responsible financially for all of their land use decisions, including roads, water and sewer lines etc...in this option there would be no zoning rules and people could build whatever, wherever...Residential, commercial, industrial whatever... I do not support this option
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Option 2: Maximum Community rights as related to zoning and planning This option seems to be what you and your vocal supporters on Patch seem to be arguing for... We all have a right to OWN property, but it's use is limited to us by the "Greater Common Good" in this world we are limited to our properties use by what the community wants and desires...again I have no contention with smart zoning and and basic community planning... but what your argument says to me is that property ownership only means that you hold the deed, but the community controls the use...in this option, we really have no property Rights as related to it's use, all we have is the right to own it... this is an argument that runs afoul to our laws and Constitution, in my opinion, and I won't go into great detail about it because I think I already have in previous posts...so let's move on to the balanced solution
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Option 3: The Balanced Approach This Option protects the individuals constitutionally protected right to private property while recognizing the public's interest in how land is used. This approach also insures that the government's regulation of land use does not constitute an uncompensated "taking" of private land. Land use plans and zoning ordinances are already in place...and they seem to be working fine, but now we have the Community that wishes to impose their will on private property owners... I suggest, as I have stated numerous times, that if the communities desires or plans collide with the current zoning laws and land use plans, and is against the will of the property owner...and that if those community desires would result in lost economic value to the property owners, which they certainly would, that the Land owner should be justly compensated for that loss. The economic value/security and/or the right to the use of your property are the MOST important characteristics of land ownership. Thus, compensating the land owner for the community imposed restriction of his/her property's use and/or value is the only way to minimize the infringement upon their private property rights Community and public interest's are already expressed in the land use plans and zoning regulations... if they community/public wish to further infringe upon land owners rights then they should be prepared to compensate them for it....to be continued
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Option 3: The Balanced Approach, continued you claim that this compensation approach is "unsustainable" and you may well be correct...however I would contend that your infringement upon individual property rights is unsustainable...used to be that private could only be taken for "public use" and that was acceptable...roads, highways, infrastructure etc..and that was all fine and dandy, and lawful...then we started getting into Government taking property for "Public Benefit" which is not supported by the Constitution, and is much more vague, but nonetheless has become a popular tool to infringe upon property rights....now I see government taking private land and selling it to developers, I guess they claim that the increased revenue provided is of "Public Benefit" but come on now, this is getting way out of control... but throughout all of those instances, the property owners were compensated to some degree... but now Mr. Marks you propose to take away a property owners ALREADY RESTRICTED right to the use of their land, WITHOUT COMPENSATION? I'm not gonna get into a "slippery slope" argument here...but I Contend that YOUR policy is unsustainable...My suggestion is a very FAIR & BALANCE approach...balancing a property owner legitimate right to their property with the community's desires... to be continued
Martha Reed June 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Our politicians should be focusing on issues like out-of-wedlock births, too.
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 07:34 PM
We have already restricted land use with zoning, and I think that is perfectly acceptable...but now I say, if you want to infringe further, time to pay up...If the community wants open spaces, then ask their government to purchase it, if they don't have the funds, then the community should start the "Perry Hall Open Spaces Foundation" and start raising money...have a bull roast, hell I'll even supply the band, set up a booth at the Perry Hall Town Fair,Start a donation website, run a 5k..I don't care how you do it, but if you want open spaces, then raise the money, and go to the property owner and negotiate a price to buy away their "Developmental Right"...if you are not willing to do that,tough luck This approach is FAIR and balances Rights vs interests...it is a "Moderate" approach and though I have know clue if my uncle, Al Redmer, would agree with me, but I'm sure he would be very proud of me for voicing my opinion and for challenging something that I don't think is right...Uncle Al is a great man, thank you for bringing him up...he did A LOT of great things for this community, he didn't always toe the party line and he is an inspiration to me Mr Marks, I argue that your proposal is NOT FAIR and is only looking out for the interests of the community's desires and not the individuals rights...please stop labeling my argument as some kind of "Extreme" view...it is logical and fair, if you disagree please, by all means, explain to me and everyone else how I'm wrong
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thank you Laurie for your kind words
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Oh and one last thing... To solve the problem with infrastructure costs, I find it completely acceptable for land owners to be responsible financially for their land use decisions. If they want to develop, they should be responsible for the costs of roads, water and sewer line etc. maybe then they would be less likely to do so. Their development would then be less of a financial burden to the public
Bart June 20, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Mr. Redmer, Most people want open space and would reject your simplistic views. Stick to the band, Steve, and leave the important decisions to others.
Steve Redmer June 20, 2012 at 08:32 PM
So Comrade Bart, I guess it's tyranny of the majority that you desire over individual rights... and just so I'm clear, how is it that my compromise approach is a"simplistic view"?...and the band is just a hobby, I'll stick to my job of protecting the public and saving lives...much more fulfilling
Bart June 20, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Typical Republican......whine and throw out ideology, but incapable of making decisions in the real world. Isn't that what Uncle Al did with Isabel, couldn't completely run an agency when given a shot? Keep playing philosopher when you're not moonlighting in a band, Steve.
William Lutostanski Jr June 20, 2012 at 09:43 PM
The people who buy in these new developments are the ones who pay for the cost of the additional infrastructure. Its usually called a front foot fee, although there are other names as well. The tax payers in these new developments pay the normal tax and then an additional fee spread out over 30 years to pay for the new developments , roads, sewer , and water etc....
William Lutostanski Jr June 20, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Typical Democrat .......call people names and not answer any direct questions. Bart I believe he asked " How is it that my compromise approach is a simplistic view ? " You responded with an insult about a political party then insulted the mans Uncle who has nothing to do with this topic. I would suggest bringing something to the discussion that is not sophomoric. It is possible to disagree with someone without child like name calling and with respect for ones viewpoint.
John Doe June 21, 2012 at 01:57 PM
"Typical democrat...not answer any direct questions" - Have you listened to Mitt Romney lately? The guy hasn't answered a direct question since 2011.
Steve Redmer June 21, 2012 at 02:15 PM
No whining and Ideology from me...just a common sense balanced approach at solving a complex issue, protecting individual rights while considering community desires...just because you don't agree with it doesn't make it wrong... If you want to challenge me, by all means do so, I love a good debate...But do it by proving me wrong and/or bring your own ideas and arguments to the discussion. Also I would appreciate it if you don't resort to insulting individuals who have nothing to do with this topic and are not involved in the discussion... I'm not sure why Mr. Marks felt the need to bring up my uncle when he has nothing to do with this topic, but I am an individual with my own views and opinion and I can protect myself...Bart, I doubt you really know many details about the Hurricane Isabel issue, and honestly I don't either, but what I do know is that my uncle worked very hard, for a very long time, to try to help Maryland residents through the worst flood this state has ever seen, and I'm sure that it was no easy task. That being said, Councilman Marks, I think you owe my uncle an apology for dragging his name into this...
Steve Redmer June 21, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Thank you William, well said
Steve Redmer June 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Comrade "Bart", I also find it interesting that you attack me personally, insult my family, and mock my job and Hobby... yet you remain relatively anonymous...seems awful cowardly to me...just sayin'
Steve Redmer June 22, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Nothing? the silence in here is deafening...I also notice Jeffrey chose not to defend his views...
Steve Redmer July 15, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Funny I just noticed this lovely comment... Yes I do have a beautiful 5 yr old son, born out-of-wedlock...a very intelligent child that is VERY well taken care of by myself and his mother ... is that a problem for you Martha?? and what exactly do you think the government should do about it?

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