The Spy sat down with Eastern Shore conservationist Chris Pupke, President of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association. In the eight minute video interview Pupke tells his vision of sustainable growth in QAC that also recognizes the need for planned economic development.
Pupke spoke about finding the balance between advocating for smart zoning and encouraging sustainable economic development–he cited the communities of Northbrook and Symphony Villages as projects QACA supported.
“[These are] appropriate places to grow,” he said.
Pupke has been critical of a prevailing “economic development concept” in Queen Anne’s County to build housing developments in corn fields.
Here Pupke clarifies QACA’s stance on growth and development in Queen Anne’s County.
Excerpts from the interview
Pupke plays overlapping roles with two other organizations, Biophilia and the Chesapeake Bay Wildlife Heritage, where as a grant coordinator he promotes wildlife diversity through habitat restoration on private property.
“It’s important for conservationists not to lose sight that there is a need for economic development, and that the other side is not always agitating for self interest,” Pupke said. “We want to be careful that we don’t make development decisions solely based on the economic self interest of a few individuals, but we need to look at the economic benefits to the entire county and the region.”
Compared to farms, sprawl developments provide less in taxes than they consume in public services, Pupke said.
“Development in farm fields has a very negative impact on our county budget,” Pupke said. Conversely, farms “provide more income in taxes than they use in county services.”
Pupke said sprawl can be cured by good legislation that allows the commissioners to measure the tax revenue benefit of a proposed development against the costs of county services to maintain the influx of new residents. Commissioners can then levy financial responsibility on the developer to subsidize the costs of an expanding population on the school system and roads. The developer of Northbrook followed a similar paradigm for the installation of a traffic light.
The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance is just that kind of legislation. But in Pupke’s opinion, the APFO currently in place in Queen Anne’s County could be doing a lot more.
“What they have done in Queen Anne’s County recently is taken an excellent APFO ordinance and kind of dumbed it down a little bit, at the cost of increasing school crowding, which has a detrimental effect on our children’s education, which has a negative impact on making Queen Anne’s County such a great place to live,” Pupke said. “It will permit increased traffic on our dangerous roads [and make them] even more dangerous. And it will do so by allowing the taxpayers to subsidize the folks who are speculating on the real estate and trying to build more homes in the area.”
QACA hopes to work with the local PTA to reform the current iteration of APFO and enact concrete zoning laws for Queen Anne’s County.
Pupke grew up in Long Island and attended New Jersey’s Drew University. His ties to the Eastern Shore are through his mother’s family, which has roots in the area. Prior to his work with QACA, Pupke worked as the outdoor education coordinator for the Pickering Creek Audubon Center near Easton.