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Residents Blast Balanced Growth Initiative
La Plata, MD - 3/13/2012
By Andy Marquis
Several residents blasted the Balanced Growth Initiative (BGI) and Charles McPherson during the public appearance portion of the Charles County Planning Commission meeting on Monday night. They also, once more, expressed their support for Charles County Planning Commission Chairman Courtney Edmonds.
Many of the speakers spoke directly regarding the fallout from the February 27th meeting, where several speakers from the Balanced Growth Initiative blasted Edmonds and Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st). Charles McPherson accused Edmonds of race baiting and said he had been personally attacked by Robinson. He also accused Robinson and others in the county of silencing the voices.
“Facts are being conveniently muffled through arguments against smart growth in Charles County and in the attack against Planning Commission Chairman Courtney Edmonds,” Maury Tobin said. “I think he effort to learn more about the Balanced Growth Initiative and its supporters evolved because of unfounded claims during this comprehensive plan update process, such as the statement that the merged scenario means ‘congestion and crime will skyrocket in Waldorf.’ That statement was SaveOurLandValues rhetoric that Mr. Edmonds brought up in comparing fear mongering that he recalled and suddenly he’s the one under scrutiny.”
“At a November planning commission meeting, (Lou Grasso) said it was inappropriate for Mr. Edmonds to question (Bob Mitchell) because it attacked Mr. Mitchell’s integrity, but then Mr. Grasso yells at a recent meeting that the chairman should be changed,” Tobin continued later on in his comments. “So, if we’re looking at the barometers of conduct or adhering to process, it seems we might be scrutinizing the wrong planning commission chairman. Mr. Edmonds should be commended, not condemned.
“The majority of this planning commission’s questionable decisions, including voting against studies, overlooking certain perspectives when it’s convenient and trying to push through an inadequate comprehensive plan is wrong. As a taxpayer and a member of the general public, I maintain that these actions circumvent my rights and affect my quality of life. Once again, attacking Chairman Courtney Edmonds is way off the mark and an insult to the general public. We finally have a champion for the people and certain folks want to squelch is voice. That, my friends, in unacceptable.”
“In my view, a lot of this is a result of the new way of doing things,” Kurt Wolfgang said. “These kinds of disputes in the past would’ve happened behind closed doors. There were things said by both sides that could have been artfully said and done. I want to commend Mr. Edmonds for trying to expose what he felt was complicity in the process and I expect all of you to do that. Whether it can be done in a civil manner is a different story.”
“I would like to commend the planning commission for what they’re doing, particularly Mr. Edmonds,” Arthur Lorson said. “About the Balanced Growth Initiative, it appears it’s more or less business as usual to promote more sprawl instead of smart growth. I’m also an environmentalists and I want to protect the resources we have here.”
“My concern is about the attack on the chairman and the conduct that’s been forward against the chairman... stuff like he’s a racist,” James Evans said. “This tactic, I’ve seen before. The accusation of being racist is truly unacceptable. The residents of Charles County will respond to those kinds of things. Charles County will not stand for that type of activity. Mr. Edmonds, keep doing a good job.”
“From my understanding, some people have rejected the idea of doing studies for a better comprehensive plan,” Haven Carlson said. “In my life, I have to study to get ahead, get good grades, understand the subject and gain knowledge.”
Jim Long, representing the Mattawoman Watershed Society, said the planning commission would benefit from additional information.
“These days in the planning commission, sometimes it’s hard to talk about substance because of the environment of the other discussions, the political feeling going on,” Alex Winter said. “The only substantive thing I want to impress on you tonight is that the problems we’re facing are not unique to Charles County. The same problems crop up all around the country and all over the world. There’s stuff being done. Good planning, there has not been near enough in this process so far in looking around and seeing what good solutions have been tried successfully to these problems.
“Regarding all this conflict that’s going on, I would’ve applauded loudly at every speaker before me but that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing here. But we are because a very large Facchina Corporation is writing letters to the newspaper trying to replace the chair and creating the so-called Balanced Growth Initiative. If you look at the millions of dollars being done the fund this expensive campaign, the Facchina Corporation is distorting our process. Ever since Citizens united, we’re going to have problems with our elections.”
Winter then spoke directly to Charles County Planning Commission Vice Chairman Joe Richard.
“Mr. Vice Chairman, you were wrong to not allow a break for the chair to leave,” Winter said. “You were like a giggly child when he left the chair for two minutes. You’re not only attacking the chair, but the people of Charles County. You have serious work to do and you owe the people an apology.”
“The comprehensive plan, while not perfect, is better than years’ past,” Mark Holt said. “I urge you not to have zoning that calls for three acres in rural areas. I’d like to say the BGI with their huge ads don’t represent anyone I know. The old sprawl model is gone, it does not work anymore. BGI sounds an awful lot like (Prince George’s County). And we don’t need another PG.”
“I’m a big supporter of smart growth,” Bonnie Bick, from the Sierra Club of Charles County, said. “I’m on the opinion that smart growth is going to come to Charles County because it’s necessary. Science and economics supports smart growth. We’d like to know who’s been paying for the lack of smart growth.”
“We are the regular citizens who need representations,” Barbara Talcott said. “We have not had a voice in the past and we have hope for the first time. I’ve read the letters to the editor and they are disingenuous. I think we’ve had a lot of ridicule. BGI, they are residents representing of a big business that has always shaped our county and land uses. BGI, a few who make up this organization, Scotts Law Firm, Chamber of Commerce, Facchina Group, special interests and lobbyists. We are residents.”
Richard did apologize to those in attendance, saying, “I am glad you have seen the error of our ways", although some saw the tone of his apology as snarky and sarcastic.
During the last meeting, 13 people spoke in the public appearance in support of the Balanced Growth Initiative. In tonight’s public appearance, 15 speakers spoke to support the chairman and, to the surprise of many, nobody from the Balanced Growth Initiative spoke.
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