Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

July 10, 2014

Trading dollars for nickels just doesn’t make any sense

— Thank you for providing an opportunity for comments on the 2014 draft of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Over the past several years, a great deal of testimony has been provided with respect to the inclusion of Terrapin Run in this plan.

Overwhelmingly, residents of the Flintstone Planning Region including Little Orleans and many other county residents have requested that the Terrapin Run development not be included in this plan — and they have provided their reasoning.

I’m sure you’re familiar with all that, so I don’t think it’s necessary to repeat it today.

Nevertheless, we are here today to discuss this draft — which still includes Terrapin Run.

We’re not just talking about a particular development that’s been proposed by a particular developer.

Bottom line, we’re talking about a feature of our county’s comprehensive plan that would take a rural agricultural area and turn it into an intense urban area — without any discussion of how that would occur and what it would cost. Commissioners, that’s simply bad planning.

And whether or not Terrapin Run is ever built, you are considering a plan that recommends a change in zoning that contemplates the development of such an intense urban area.

A Cost of Community Services study performed by The Ohio State University Extension Service estimates that for every dollar collected in taxes, between $1.15 and $1.50 would be required to pay for services such as building and maintaining streets and roads, providing water and sewer systems, providing adequate school facilities, and supporting public health and safety: for example, fire, police, emergency and medical services.

Quoting directly from the study, “residential land is a net drain on local governmental budgets.”

I think we can all understand that building a new development such as Terrapin Run far from where adequate infrastructure exists would place a heavy burden on the taxpayers of Allegany County.

Commissioner Valentine, I know you are keenly aware of this because I heard you state at a recent candidates’ forum in response to a question about economic development, “residential taxes don’t pay their own way.”

And you went on to suggest that development of the type represented by Terrapin Run would cost taxpayers about $1.17 for every $1 in taxes collected. While I was encouraged to hear you acknowledge that, I think your estimate was probably low, at least based on the studies I’ve read.

We’d all like to see real economic development in Allegany County, Commissioners, but not when it costs taxpayers more than it’s worth. As Commissioner Brodie might say, trading dollars for nickels doesn’t make any sense.

Commissioners, today you have an opportunity to do the right thing for the citizens of Allegany County by not approving this particular part of the Comprehensive Plan. The ball’s in your court.

Dale Sams

Cumberland

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