Op-Ed: Shore Residents should Save the Historic Tax Credit by Nicholas Redding and Katie Parks

Caught up in the current effort to reform the federal tax code is a critical program that has completed nearly $25 million worth of rehabilitated historic buildings on Maryland’s Eastern Shore since 2002. The Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a 20% credit on the cost of rehabilitating a historic building and is a powerful and efficient tool for revitalizing our nation’s small towns and cities.

For every $1 invested by the federal government, the program attracts nearly $4 in private investment. Better yet, for every $1 in credits, the program returns $1.20 to the federal treasury – actually yielding a profit for the government. The results have been stunning and have changed the outlook for many communities.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore the program has a long history of revitalizing communities while also saving important historic buildings. Since 2002, in Easton alone the program has incentivized the rehabilitation of $10 million worth of buildings – from main street shops to former industrial buildings. A perfect example is the McCord Laundry facility, home to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – a mixed-use campus of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and apartments. In Cambridge, the program is supporting the rebirth of Race Street, providing critical equity to make the rehabilitation of the Hearn Hardware Building a reality. The formerly vacant and crumbling building will now host market rate apartments and first floor retail space; yet another positive outcome thanks to the Historic Tax Credit.

Elsewhere in Cambridge, the Historic Tax Credit is incentivizing an ambitious and potentially catalytic project that will convert the vacant Phillips Packing Co.’s Factory F into a hub of commerce, industry, and education. Without the Historic Tax Credit and the New Market Tax Credit program, which is also seriously threatened, tackling difficult projects like this in rural communities would not be possible.
Repeal of the Historic Tax Credit should be of grave concern for anyone who cares about the future of the Eastern Shore’s charming small towns and cities. Reuse of historic buildings will plummet and investment in downtowns will become increasingly cost prohibitive. In turn, property values will sink and local coffers will suffer as property tax revenue plummets. New construction will move to the fringes of communities – resulting in more sprawl and the subsequent loss of farmland. Fortunately, this is a future we can avoid.

Organizations and municipalities all across the state and the Shore are calling on Congress to save the Historic Tax Credit. It’s also a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement – it was a favorite program of President Ronald Reagan and has been championed by Republican and Democratic leaders alike in this latest tax reform debate. Eastern Shore residents should reach out to Congressman Harris and let him know they support preservation of our historic properties and investment in our towns.

Nicholas Redding & Katie Parks

Nicholas Redding is the Executive Director of Preservation Maryland, the nation’s second oldest statewide preservation organization.Twitter: @PreservationMD. Katie Parks is the Director of Conservation at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, a land conservation and community development non-profit organization. Twitter: @EShoreLandC

Gallery Notes: George Hamilton and Kathy Kopec at A.M. Gravely Gallery

“Winter’s Grip” oil Artist: Kathy Kopec

During the months of November and December, local award winning artists, George Hamilton and Kathy Kopec, will exhibit their oil paintings at the A.M. Gravely Gallery, 408 S. Talbot Street, St. Michaels. Gallery Hours are Friday and Saturday, 10am to 6pm, and Sunday and Monday 10am to 3pm.

St. Michaels Snow by George Hamilton

 

For more information contact A.M. Gravely Gallery at 410/745-5059, email: amgart@aol.com, or go to www.amgravelygallery.com.

A Soldier’s Return to Civilian Life: Modern Warrior Live to Debut in Easton this Weekend

When United States Army Veteran Jaymes Poling returned from Afghanistan, he was hit with a difficult decision: share his personal accounts of combat with others and risk a change in their perception of him or internalize everything he’d been through?

“A lot of veterans run into that,” he says. “I didn’t want to become the sum of my stories.”

Dominick Farinacci and Jaymes Poling

So, the finance major decided to do something to change the narrative often told of a veteran’s journey. It’s a theatrical production called Modern Warrior Live and it debuts in Easton before its New York City-run—and inevitable nation-wide distribution—on Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19 at the Avalon Theatre in Easton.

This live experience combines dynamic musical performances, led by renowned jazz musician Dominick Farinacci, and the autobiographical details of Poling’s three years as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division.

“It spans all generations of music,” Farinacci says. “The audience can expect to hear a lot of songs they’ve heard before, but in a completely different context, as well as completely new material.”

It all began over a year ago, when a mutual friend introduced Poling to Farinacci, who was searching for insight from a veteran to help better perform a cover song. That initial meeting lasted several hours, as the two spoke about Poling’s experiences and how they could collaborate on something more than that one piece.

“Everything [Poling] said was running contrary to what I’d heard. And there was so much substance, we kept going back and forth for months until we realized we should create a stage production,” Farinacci says. “And having [Poling] tell his own story just makes it that much more powerful.”

Poling was initially hesitant to participate in the endeavor, however, as he worried he might perpetuate stereotypes, like the wounded or hero veteran. He was well aware that in our current “soundbite culture,” one vet’s story becomes generalized to represent all veterans’ stories and he didn’t want to exacerbate the issue.

But, he eventually realized how the venture could not only benefit himself in a therapeutic sense, but also help the general public gain a better understanding of a veteran’s time in combat and their reintegration as a civilian. And, most importantly, start a dialog between veterans and their local communities.

“I felt like I couldn’t sit here and complain about the narrative and not do anything about it,” Poling says. “What I really like about the stage production is we’re able to share all those [experiences], yet the audience doesn’t walk away seeing somebody as a victim of that one violent experience.”

With Poling on board to write and narrate his own story, Farinacci coordinated with about 10 different musicians, from percussionists to vocalists, to create a soundtrack that portrays the veteran’s psychological experiences.

“This is a universal story. It’s not specific to an American who served,” says Farinacci. “It’s really a story of growth and struggle and adversity and psychological challenges and, ultimately, the positive growth that can come from that.”

Catch Modern Warrior Live at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 18, or 2 p.m. Sunday, November 19, at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. Complimentary tickets are available to all veterans/active military and one additional guest. Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

 

 

 

Oxford Community Center Appoints Liza Ledford as Executive Director

The Oxford Community Center has appointed Liza Ledford as the center’s Executive Director. Ledford grew up on the Miles River in Marengo Farms and attended the Country School. She traveled to Boston for High School and spent the majority of her career in Los Angeles. Upon her return to Talbot County six years ago, Ledford worked with various regional non-profit organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, The Chesapeake Film Festival and The Avalon Foundation. She assumed the position officially on October 31st.

Joseph Fischer, OCC Board President and Liza Ledford

Hiring Ledford was the result of an extensive search by a search committee appointed by the OCC Board of Trustees. The search was headed by Joseph Fischer, OCC Board President.

“We are very pleased to have Liza join OCC as the Executive Director,” said Fischer. “Liza is the perfect match for OCC and will be able to lead us to accomplish our strategic objectives during this period of growth. Her background is ideal to meet the challenges ahead in bringing the most exciting programming to our Community in Talbot County.”

Ledford is familiar with Talbot County non-profit and cultural organizations. Her private marketing company Northstar Consulting Services, LLC served multiple non-profits and small businesses in the area supporting their event production, programming, facility rentals, marketing strategy and public relations. Ledford’s focus on branding and telling the “story” of each organization created engagement with the public and grew awareness about the various organizations. Ledford built strong relationships with media outlets to grow her client’s presence in the competitive non-profit arena.

Prior to Northstar Consulting Services, Ledford honed her producing and marketing skills in the entertainment industry. She was an executive at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, Associate Producer for Universal Pictures then finished her Hollywood career at Sony Studios. Her skills producing “experiences” and creating buzz translate well for growing OCC.

“The quality of the programs and events offered at OCC are fantastic! I am also inspired by the commitment the board made to continue new initiatives and invite more people and partners to enjoy this incredible space,” said Ledford.

Ledford married an “Oxford Boy” in The Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with reception at Pope’s and enjoys time with the many Ledford’s in the area, especially her father-in-law “Big Al” with the Oxford Fire Department. She lives in Easton with husband Mark and their two children, Mason, 17, and Alice, 14. Ledford is a member of the Rotary, an adjunct professor at JHU/MICA Film Center and serves on the Advisory Board for AEMS, Arts Education in Maryland Schools and the Interactive Media Production Department for Talbot County Public School System.

Located in the town of Oxford, the OCC is housed in a former schoolhouse built in 1928 and designed by Annapolis-born architect Henry Powell Hopkins. Hopkins designed notable public buildings throughout Maryland and the OCC is the last surviving example of his school projects. OCC completed a successful capital campaign and renovation of the building. The facility is now an award-winning LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certified building with state of the art HVAC, sound and lighting systems, large auditorium, commercial kitchen and several classrooms. OCC hosts programs, performances, and classes throughout the year, and is available for rental.

For more information, please contact the Oxford Community Center at 410-226-5904, email oxfordcc@verizon.net, visit their website at www.oxfordcc.org or their Facebook page at Oxford Community Center, Inc.

 

Letter to Editor: Harris Flip-Flops on Deficit-Spending to Support Corporate Tax Giveaway

Talbot Rising, an Eastern Shore nonprofit progressive group, is demanding that Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01) explain why he is flip-flopping on deficit-spending to support the new House tax plan that raises the deficit by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years while enriching corporations and hurting local taxpayers.

“Congressman Harris is betraying his constituents by supporting a corporate tax giveaway at the expense of Maryland residents. Who is he really representing? His constituents – or the big-money donors to his campaign? ” asked Robert Tiernan, a spokesman for Talbot Rising. “The House GOP tax bill hurts middle-class taxpayers by eliminating important deductions for college loans, medical expenses, and most of all state and local taxes. The bill would also damage the housing market on the Eastern Shore and hurt the construction industry with changes to mortgage deductions and property taxes.”

For years, Harris has presented Powerpoint slides complaining about the deficit, but now Harris has sold out to corporate interests to explode the deficit. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, in fact, says many middle-class families will end up paying more taxes.

In this Republican plan, corporate taxes are slashed. The estate tax is whacked, benefiting only the very wealthy. The alternative minimum tax, designed to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share, is gone.

Rep. Harris owes the 700,000 people of the First District a full explanation instead of a 100-word statement.

Here are some questions Harris must answer:

Why is he supporting a bill that bestows on companies a huge tax cut with no assurance it will be used to create jobs at home instead of providing smart research and employment-growth incentives?

Why does he support raising the bottom tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent and eliminating medical expense deductions — while cutting the estate tax and AMT for wealthy families?

Why is Andy Harris selling out local Maryland communities by getting rid of the deduction for state and local taxes? In Maryland, state and local income tax totaled more than $8.5 billion, 10 times the amount of property taxes, which also faces limits.

Rep. Harris owes the 700,000 people of the First District a full explanation instead of a 100-word statement. In a town hall meeting nine months ago, his only one on the Eastern Shore this year, he promised to hold another general meeting on any major legislation.
We’re waiting, Congressman.

Bob Tiernan
Talbot Rising
Talbot County, Maryland

Chesapeake College Commits to Solar Energy but Wind Turbine to Come Down

Solar Canopy on Parking Lot at Chesapeake College

Based on the success of its solar energy program over the past year, Chesapeake College is decommissioning its wind turbine on the nacortheast corner of its campus at Rt. 50 and plans to invest future resources in renewable energy produced by the sun.

Since installing a six-acre solar array and photovoltaic parking canopy on the south side of its property in 2016, Chesapeake has produced enough power in one year to offset approximately 45 percent of the college’s energy demand.

“Solar energy has propelled our renewable energy production,” said Dr. Stuart Bounds, Chesapeake’s Interim President.  “In the first year, the array produced 2.25 million kilowatts of electricity at a cost of $106,000. This represents a savings of $85,000 off of grid prices. We anticipate similar savings on utility bills over the next 19 years, which doesn’t include any additional solar installations constructed.”

Chesapeake is also incorporating solar energy into its curriculum. This fall, the college is offering workforce classes in solar photovoltaic electricity and electric vehicle technology.

“Our vision is for the college to be a living laboratory for studying renewable energy and sustainability,” Bounds said.

Chesapeake’s wind turbine, installed in 2011, marked the beginning of the college’s sustainability efforts and energy-savings measures on campus that now include solar energy.

In February, the turbine’s generator suffered catastrophic failure. Most likely caused by a power surge, repair estimates are between $20,000 and $25,000.

“The turbine was a catalyst in creating a culture of energy conservation at Chesapeake,” Bounds said.  “But we determined that the repair cost was too expensive and our resources could more effectively be invested in solar power, which will result in greater energy savings on campus.”

Being dismantled and removed from campus this week, the turbine will be sold on the secondary market, according to Bounds.

This year, Chesapeake has continued expansion of its solar energy program working with Pepco Holdings and Delmarva Power on a first-in-the-nation collaboration.

In July, the first phase of a 2MW utility-scale battery project was installed to provide ongoing electrical storage for the college.  The cutting-edge project integrates the college’s solar array with the campus and regional electrical grids.  The battery will also serve the regional grid by regulating voltage and frequency and smoothing out power fluctuations caused by renewable energy generation.

Other recent sustainability efforts at Chesapeake include installing electrical vehicle charging stations; working with Midshore River Keepers on stormwater infrastructure to improve the quality of the Wye East River and installing an on-campus recycling center with regular pick-ups.

Chesapeake has received significant recognition in 2017 for its commitment to sustainability. The Health Professions and Athletic Center (HPAC) earned LEED Platinum certification, and Chesapeake became the first community college in the U.S. to receive a Better Building Challenge Achievers Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

From South of Left Field: Meandering by Jimmie Galbreath

Have you ever had a pause in your life where the sense of self and place in society fades away? A time when a vague sense of hopelessness hangs in the air like a dense fog? The conviction that something is terribly wrong. Yes, this does have to do with Las Vegas, but only because for me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I have had a long break filled with meandering thoughts, roaming back and forth between memories of beliefs long past and recently past. Recalling the fading of confidence in my government while watching my draft number (280) being drawn long ago when Vietnam meant so much more than now. Prepared to serve, afraid of dying, and lacking any real, believable reason to die for. A journey from the confidence and faith left from the 50’s to the cynical view left behind by Vietnam and Watergate. The resurgence of faith and pride when Reagan was elected, to the sickening view looking back over two decades of his Republican economic formula which created a slow, sure decay of our overall standard of living due to growing income inequality.

What have we become? The respect Americans once held from people overseas has been dwindling now for quite some time, for nearly my entire life. A family member traveling outside the country has claimed to be Canadian to avoid the strange looks and embarrassing questions. Questions about us as a people. Why do we act like we do? Why do we believe what we believe?

From out there, others see a people who claim a moral superiority, but at the same time seem almost eager to kill just about anyone. We have become a people of greed rather than charity. We don’t value each other enough to provide basic security from want or disease. We don’t value each other enough to try to stop mass shootings; not even when they include our children. Our leaders who, like it or not, reflect who we are, display a self-absorbed and cruel world view. Bloodshed, starvation, and disease barely get a shrug even when it is here at home. There is no lack of self-righteous talk about not enough money to support each other but there is no lack of money to support a military that spans the globe killing nearly everywhere it goes. Murder from the sky. Wars, deployments, and strikes that, like Vietnam, just somehow doesn’t pass the smell test of critical thought. Creating enemies and corpses, both ours and theirs with no really robust reason beyond the fact we can do it. Don’t ask the other peoples if they would want to be an American. They may still want to come here, but I doubt they want to be like us. They likely have a stronger sense of community and a deeper desire to support each other.

We as a people were naive in our world view coming out of World War II, although we were learning fast. Sadly our education in this sphere came to a halt as we basked in our power and a sense that we were the best of peoples, with the best of governments, the best of businesses, the best of technologies and the best educational systems. A fair bit of that was true, but time has a way of passing and people and governments that are open to learning can change. Today we are reduced to being a military leader only, with a fair bit of wealth and little else. We are far more feared than admired. Most of the world changed and improved. We cling to a sense of superiority, a flag and turned inward believing we are better the “them.”

This place I meandered into finally is the realization that the current government was elected by us all; either by direct vote or indifferent negligence. In the end, the paint brush they wield stains us all equally. Our blood splattered nation, poor schools, and inhumane policies reflected in the recent deliberate sabotage of ACA and the effort to reduce food and medical support for poorer Americans is the lens every one of us is viewed through by the rest of the world. It is time we own this. If we don’t like this picture, then change it.

Assume responsibility for all Americans. The basis for the formation of a government is collective protection. We collectively support police and fire departments. We collectively support a military and judicial system. We collectively seek to provide education and provide emergency services to each other. Are we then content to see the poor suffer and die untreated?

The path to where we are today was laid out and paved by both the Democratic and Republican parties. These two wealth funded organizations have herded and manipulated us all for over 100 years. The tools and power of propaganda they wield remain effective only as long as we waste our time listening to them. If we continue to listen to them our life circumstances will continue to decline. They will smother us with bogey men like frightened children and lead us by the nose further and further down the path of decline. The path to greatness is paved by people working together toward a humane society. There is no real choice for me when confronted by either fellow citizen being armed and dispatched to kill foreigners or being trained and supplied to aid a suffering family here. Honor our servicemen and women by only sending them to die for real, concrete causes. Reserve more of our wealth to better our lives.

Countries like Australia reacted to mass killings by changing gun laws and the result was a considerable drop in mass killings and gun violence. Their police don’t face anything like the quantity and firepower our police do. Here over 1,000 citizens a year die under the guns of our own law enforcement. Faced by an increasingly well-armed general population with repeated demonstrations of a willingness to ambush police and kill unarmed citizens in our schools and streets this isn’t surprising. Honor our police by removing this threat so that we can trust them not to kill out of undue fear.

We cannot regain a real voice in America if we continue to play with the Democratic and Republican parties. They do not have our interests at heart; rather they seek to support their sources of money. Trying to reform them from within is agreeing to play their game by their rules on their courts. The end result will be their victory and our continued loss to the powers of wealth.

A Revolution is needed, but rather than waiting until our situation degenerates to large-scale violence in response to growing poverty, I recommend that Independents and disaffected Democrats and Republicans begin registering en mass with The Green party. A large influx of active voters would remake this organization’s leadership in short order. The tentacles of wealthy influence there are weak or nonexistent.
Having meandered from a youthful Republican, to an indifferent Independent, to an older Democrat, to being an active Independent, it is clear to me that a new Political Party of power is needed. I am changing my registration. What are you doing?

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: But How Did We Get Here? By Carol Voyles

But how did we get here?

Despite the hardships they may have faced, our nation’s settlers could be compared to lottery winners. Land ownership was a measure of our wealth, and the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 promoted “an empire of liberty” through broad land ownership at bargain prices. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered land at no cost, and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1865 doubled the acreage.

Opportunity was ours, and we owe our forefathers a large debt of gratitude. Aristocrats claimed title to the land settled in South America. Our founding fathers revolted not only against taxation without representation, they made a revolutionary departure from a tradition of aristocratic oligarchy, and the United States of America would become the greatest nation on earth.

There were bumps in the road. From the ashes of our Civil War, we would transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an industrialized society. Our wealth doubled during the Industrial Revolution, but fewer winners made it into our Gilded Age. Labor unions gained ground following WWI, but market speculation ended in the Crash of 1929. We suffered our Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933 included public works and financial reform. There were objections to government intrusion and an 8 percent increase in government spending, but WWII would increase spending by 52 percent. We also experienced levels of economic growth only dreamed of today, and would elect more Democrats and only a Democratic Congress over the next 3 decades.

Our veterans worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but were offered a hand up at the starting line. Their education was free. VA mortgages made homes affordable, and wages supported a family. Our middle class became the wealthiest on earth during our nation’s Golden Age.

We were also paying down an enormous war debt, and likely complained about taxes as we piled our families into our new cars and headed out to dinner and a movie. I had wondered at this phenomenon at a family gathering, but those taking these complaints seriously had Frederich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” The “conservative bible” warned against government intervention.

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” soon followed, also rejecting “collectivism.” Rand Paul was named for Ms. Ayn, but by 1973 journalist Irving Crystal had become the “godfather of neoconservatism.” Embracing supply side economics and the concept that tax cuts pay for themselves, he would later acknowledge a “cavalier attitude toward budget deficits,” but prioritize “political effectiveness over government accounting deficiencies.”

In other words, trickle down hadn’t worked, but one might claim it does. That message would persist, and the party that had led us into our Great Depression would create 2.5 times more debt as a share of our economy, advise us “deficits don’t matter,” and lead us into our Great Recession.

Since WWII Democratic administrations have, without exception, reduced budget deficits. Yes, even President Obama.

Jobs and wages top our list of concerns, though. Plowing through government data, we also find that since WWII nearly 3 times as many jobs have been created during Democratic administrations, wages and median household incomes increased more and faster, and minimum wages were up 16 cents annually versus 6 cents.

We’re all about business by now, and our bottom line is that our economy has grown more and we have all done better during Democratic administrations. Economists Blinder and Watson made our job easier by presenting undisputed government data, acknowledging economic cycles, and confirming that since WWII our economy has performed better by every positive economic measure during Democratic administrations.

This outcome may have been foretold in 1792. Record keeping was spotty then, but we chose the “tyranny of democracy” over the tyranny of aristocratic oligarchy, and our bill to revive our cod industry required everyone from the cabin boy to the captain to share in the profits.

Examining the eternal struggle between personal freedoms and a civilized society, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remained on required reading lists in 1980; yet we would be led into the Republican Revolution. We got tax cuts, and while our government is spending less as a share of our economy than other industrialized nations, it is not yet “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” We are being promised our “biggest tax cuts ever.”

As CEO compensation is reaching hundreds and even thousands of times the wages of average employees, and McDonald’s CEO recently tripled his multi-million dollar compensation package in just one year as taxpayers supplement employees’ wages, it’s hardly surprising to find that the 1 percent of us that amassed 40 percent of our nation’s wealth heading into our Great Depression is closing in upon than level once again.

We’re angry, and perhaps understandably have elected a president who is embracing the politics of division, tweeting “alternative facts,” and taking credit for deals made before he took office, magazine covers that don’t exist, phone calls he hasn’t received, and a nation called “Nambia.”

President Trump has advised, “When the president says it, that means it’s true.” We have no idea how frequently his “great friend” Carl Icahn is visiting, though. The White House visitors’ log has been done away with.
President Obama apologized for his misstatement, the one quoted so frequently, and advised, “Democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We have his birth certificate, his White House visitors’ log, records of those meetings, his tax returns, and millions more of us are at least seeing a doctor.

Accountability would be timely. William Jennings Bryan observed over a century ago, “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosper, their prosperity will leak through onto those below. The Democratic idea, however, is that if you legislate to make the masses prosper, prosperity finds its way up through every class.”

That’s what we have experienced in the United States of America. We all do better when we all do better, and achieving the highest level of income disparity in the industrialized world isn’t serving us well.

Thomas Jefferson feared an “aristocracy of our monied corporations,” and advised us to “leave no authority existing that is not responsible to the people.” He may have sensed that while capitalism is vital to our economy, working together for a strong middle class nets positive results, while moving in the opposite direction results in the dysfunction we’re experiencing today.

Our forefathers did their part to promote the general welfare. Now it is up to us.

Carol Voyles is the Treasurer of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee and Board member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum

Habitat: Waterfront Living Through the Eyes of Critical Areas by Robert Rauch

 

The Chesapeake Bay and all of its tributaries have over 11,000 miles of waterfront. The highly coveted waterfront has been sought after by residential developers for years. Residential lots with waterfront views and access to the Bay command high premiums and attractive profits for developers and land owners. Subdividing farms with extensive waterfronts into one and two acre lots was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Many farmers quickly recognized that their waterfront could be subdivided into lots and they could still retain much of the property to continue farming. There were other incentives to waterfront property land owners to subdivide the waterfront. Large waterfront properties, with unprotected shorelines, can lose acres of valuable real estate every year. Revenue from waterfront subdivision was often the only financially feasible way for a family, that had owned their farms for many years, to protect the shoreline. The high-priced waterfront with the potential for subdivision also became many farm owner’s valuable retirement plans.

Waterfront lot purchasers would typically clear the shorelines of brush and trees for a clear view and access to the water. Stone or timber shoreline protection and a pier with boat slips generally followed.  Many owners would construct their house as close to the water as possible to maximize the waterfront living experience. In 1984 all of that changed for Maryland waterfront property owners. The Maryland Critical Areas law was adopted and statewide development standards were enforced to limit the impact of new waterfront development activities on the quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Concerns over water quality and increasing nutrient loads from runoff inspired rigid standards for the development and use of tidal waterfront property. Regulated use of activities within 1,000 feet of the shoreline was determined to be critical for protection of the Bay. Special attention and more ridged control of a 100-foot buffer further limited a property owner’s right to improve the shoreline. The State of Maryland developed a set of standard rules and regulations for towns and counties to adopt and enforce. The local jurisdictions also had the right to adopt stricter standards for development in the Critical Area.

With the adoption of the Maryland Critical Areas Law, current and future owners of undeveloped Maryland waterfront property must now consider the development of their property with consideration given to State and local Critical Areas regulations. Restrictive buffer standards, increased setbacks, limitations on the amount of rooftop area and other non-porous surfaces and designed stormwater management improvements must n

ow be addressed in every Critical Areas development plan. Site design and approvals are also more complicated, expensive and time consuming. Development standards are slightly less restrictive for lots that were developed prior to the adoption of the Critical Areas program.

Maintenance of an undisturbed buffer is expected to filter and reduce the runoff of damaging pollutants. Heavy undergrowth and a continuous tree line are expected to provide valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife. Unfortunately, these environmental and wildlife considerations are not necessarily compatible with the enjoyable use of a residential waterfront property. Tree lines and unmaintained grasses and shrubs can obstruct views and access. Homeowners are however, allowed limited access to docks and other permitted water dependent uses. View lines may also be created, but any related disturbance to the buffer must be permitted as part of an approved buffer management plan. Shoreline protection is allowed with State and local permits. Passive or living shorelines are preferred to structural improvements. Limited dredging may be allowed in association with the permitting of a dock or pier. Lot coverage and landscaping outside of the buffer must take into account the incorporation of stormwater management improvements that conform to recently adopted enhanced nutrient removal standards that incorporate treatment measures suitable for residential lots.

Every lot and every development project will have unique conditions that a homeowner must address. Depending on the date that a lot was recorded, the buffer will range from 100’ to 200’. If you want to remove a dead tree in the buffer you must plant a new tree. Disturbance of the buffer to construct a walk or trail to gain access to a dock will require mitigation of the disturbance at a rate of 2:1. Buffer disturbance for erosion control requires mitigation of the disturbance at a rate of 1:1. Lawns may not be extended into the buffer as a form of mitigation. In certain circumstances, natural reestablishment of the buffer may be permitted. If the shoreline buffer on an existing lot is not fully established with approved vegetation, a homeowner is required to fully establish the buffer as part of the site development requirements for the project. Essentially, unobstructed views and non-restricted access to the rivers and Bay are no longer possible for waterfront property owners; that is not to say that a well-designed Critical Areas compliant buffer cannot be an aesthetically pleasing landscape feature. A healthy and vibrant shoreline brings diverse wildlife and unique wetland vegetation to your backyard, beautiful in their own right.

 

The design, approval and permitting associated with the development of a waterfront home, in Maryland’s Critical Area, will require the assistance of an engineering firm familiar with local development standards and process, Critical Areas design standards, and current stormwater management design requirements. An environmental scientist should be employed to assist in the verification of tidal and non-tidal wetlands and design and approval of a septic system and well. A landscape architect is an important member of the design team. Stormwater management practices should be designed into the overall landscape design for the property. An Architect familiar with restrictions imposed on waterfront property will provide valuable assistance in the design of a home that meets the owners needs and preferences and reduces Critical Areas impacts. Finally, a qualified real estate attorney will be required if any variances are desired to the standard Critical Areas development standards. Permitting will include approval of a site plan, buffer management plan, stormwater management plan, building plans, pier design, and septic and well plans. Sufficient time should be given to a development schedule to complete design and obtain all permits and approvals. With the right development team and an understanding of the applicable waterfront development standards, beautiful, functional and enjoyable waterfront lots can be designed and developed for your dream home.

 

Robert Rauch, P.E. is the President of RAUCH inc., a civil engineering, survey, architectural and construction management firm based in Easton, Md.  Bob is a Registered Professional Engineer in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.  He serves on the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, the Board of Directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, and The Board of Visitors of University of Maryland, A. J. Clark School of Engineering, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering.  In 2016 RAUCH inc. was recognized as Talbot County’s Small Business of the Year. Bob was also recognized in 2017 as Talbot County’s Businessman of the Year.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources has made available the following resources to assist property owners to understand the many complicated rules and regulations that apply to planning, designing and construction on a lot or parcel located in Maryland’s Critical Area:

Building in the Critical Area

The Green Book for the Buffer – An Illustrated Guidebook for Planting at the Shoreline

Critical Area Buffer Resources Guide

http://dnr.maryland

 

Letter to Editor: But How Did We Get Here?

Despite the hardships they may have faced, our nation’s settlers could be compared to lottery winners. Land ownership was a measure of our wealth, and the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 promoted “an empire of liberty” through broad land ownership at bargain prices. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered land at no cost, and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1865 doubled the acreage.

Opportunity was ours, and we owe our forefathers a large debt of gratitude. Aristocrats claimed title to the land settled in South America. Our founding fathers revolted not only against taxation without representation, they made a revolutionary departure from a tradition of aristocratic oligarchy, and the United States of America would become the greatest nation on earth.

There were bumps in the road. From the ashes of our Civil War, we would transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an industrialized society. Our wealth doubled during the Industrial Revolution, but fewer winners made it into our Gilded Age. Labor unions gained ground following WWI, but market speculation ended in the Crash of 1929. We suffered our Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933 included public works and financial reform. There were objections to government intrusion and an 8 percent increase in government spending, but WWII would increase spending by 52 percent. We also experienced levels of economic growth only dreamed of today, and would elect more Democrats and only a Democratic Congress over the next 3 decades.

Our veterans worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but were offered a hand up at the starting line. Their education was free. VA mortgages made homes affordable, and wages supported a family. Our middle class became the wealthiest on earth during our nation’s Golden Age.

We were also paying down an enormous war debt, and likely complained about taxes as we piled our families into our new cars and headed out to dinner and a movie. I had wondered at this phenomenon at a family gathering, but those taking these complaints seriously had Frederich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” The “conservative bible” warned against government intervention.

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” soon followed, also rejecting “collectivism.” Rand Paul was named for Ms. Ayn, but by 1973 journalist Irving Crystal had become the “godfather of neoconservatism.” Embracing supply side economics and the concept that tax cuts pay for themselves, he would later acknowledge a “cavalier attitude toward budget deficits,” but prioritize “political effectiveness over government accounting deficiencies.”

In other words, trickle down hadn’t worked, but one might claim it does. That message would persist, and the party that had led us into our Great Depression would create 2.5 times more debt as a share of our economy, advise us “deficits don’t matter,” and lead us into our Great Recession.

Since WWII Democratic administrations have, without exception, reduced budget deficits. Yes, even President Obama.

Jobs and wages top our list of concerns, though. Plowing through government data, we also find that since WWII nearly 3 times as many jobs have been created during Democratic administrations, wages and median household incomes increased more and faster, and minimum wages were up 16 cents annually versus 6 cents.

We’re all about business by now, and our bottom line is that our economy has grown more and we have all done better during Democratic administrations. Economists Blinder and Watson made our job easier by presenting undisputed government data, acknowledging economic cycles, and confirming that since WWII our economy has performed better by every positive economic measure during Democratic administrations.

This outcome may have been foretold in 1792. Record keeping was spotty then, but we chose the “tyranny of democracy” over the tyranny of aristocratic oligarchy, and our bill to revive our cod industry required everyone from the cabin boy to the captain to share in the profits.

Examining the eternal struggle between personal freedoms and a civilized society, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remained on required reading lists in 1980; yet we would be led into the Republican Revolution. We got tax cuts, and while our government is spending less as a share of our economy than other industrialized nations, it is not yet “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” We are being promised our “biggest tax cuts ever.”

As CEO compensation is reaching hundreds and even thousands of times the wages of average employees, and McDonald’s CEO recently tripled his multi-million dollar compensation package in just one year as taxpayers supplement employees’ wages, it’s hardly surprising to find that the 1 percent of us that amassed 40 percent of our nation’s wealth heading into our Great Depression is closing in upon than level once again.

We’re angry, and perhaps understandably have elected a president who is embracing the politics of division, tweeting “alternative facts,” and taking credit for deals made before he took office, magazine covers that don’t exist, phone calls he hasn’t received, and a nation called “Nambia.”

President Trump has advised, “When the president says it, that means it’s true.” We have no idea how frequently his “great friend” Carl Icahn is visiting, though. The White House visitors’ log has been done away with.

President Obama apologized for his misstatement, the one quoted so frequently, and advised, “Democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We have his birth certificate, his White House visitors’ log, records of those meetings, his tax returns, and millions more of us are at least seeing a doctor.

Accountability would be timely. William Jennings Bryan observed over a century ago, “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosper, their prosperity will leak through onto those below. The Democratic idea, however, is that if you legislate to make the masses prosper, prosperity finds its way up through every class.”

That’s what we have experienced in the United States of America. We all do better when we all do better, and achieving the highest level of income disparity in the industrialized world isn’t serving us well.

Thomas Jefferson feared an “aristocracy of our monied corporations,” and advised us to “leave no authority existing that is not responsible to the people.” He may have sensed that while capitalism is vital to our economy, working together for a strong middle class nets positive results, while moving in the opposite direction results in the dysfunction we’re experiencing today.

Our forefathers did their part to promote the general welfare. Now it is up to us.

Carol Voyles
Treasurer, Talbot County Democratic Central Committee
Board member. Talbot County Democratic Forum