To help protect property rights from government overreach causing needless harm, tell the Frederick County Council to vote down the “Water Buffer Bill” proposed by Councilmen Kai Hagen and Jerry Donald with support from County Executive Jan Gardner. Send your email now to: Councilmembers@frederickcountyMD.gov before the vote on Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Any council member voting for this bill is essentially, endorsing a government “taking” of private land via arbitrary government regulations. All without just cause or compensation to owners. This is fundamentally and morally wrong.

Both the highly regarded Frederick County Farm Bureau and Association of Realtors are against the bill with serious concerns. Even the Frederick County Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject the bill and recommend to the council that it not be passed.

There’s a right way and a wrong way for the government to acquire private land. The right way is to buy it from a willing seller or acquire it under the law of eminent domain, requiring just cause and compensation to landowners. The wrong way is to take control of private land through an unethical, back-door way of unnecessary government regulations.

This harmful, unnecessary bill is a step in the wrong direction. And because one bad step can lead to another, it begs the question: Whose property rights could be infringed upon next? Yours? This is why it’s vital to prevent government overreach large or small.

The Buffer Bill affects countless properties and farms county-wide that are contiguous to water bodies including rivers, lakes and streams. It seeks to change county law to needlessly increase the existing 100-150 foot wide buffer setback requirement further into waterfront land during any land subdivision process. This existing buffer requirement is already 2-3 times larger than a commonly recommended 50-foot-wide buffer for water protection in 49 states nationwide (Blinn & Kilgore). It also meets/surpasses federal government buffer standards (35-100 feet) for water protection.

The Farm Bureau was spot on when they said the bill’s “unnecessary restrictions can cause undue harm to landowners and farmers by infringing on property rights; reducing a landowner’s ability to use their own land; and can negatively impact property values. In this case, for no credible reason or compensation to owners.”

Moreover, after causing undue harm, the bill’s increased buffer size will have no practical effect to improve water quality (which is the purpose of the bill) due to significant diminishing returns in effectiveness of larger buffers in filtering pollutants. According to Yale University: “Studies unanimously support the conclusion that buffer efficiency at filtering out pollutants increases with width. However, this does not increase infinitely, and the goal is to find the most efficient width. For example, a study in the Mid-Atlantic found that 90% of sediments were removed by a 62-foot riparian buffer, but only 94% were removed by more than doubling the buffer width to 164 feet.” Thus, a buffer nearly 3 times larger than a 62-foot buffer only filters a tiny percentage more pollutants.

Additionally, state and county government scientific research specific to Frederick County waterways proves no countywide nitrogen/phosphorous pollution problem exists to support the bill’s blanket countywide buffer increase regulation to waterfront land.

All of the above renders the bill a resounding failure. The only thing the bill really does is allow the government to wrongly take control of more waterfront private land without justification or compensation to owners.

As a former chairman of the longstanding, prior joint-county Monocacy River Board, I care deeply about the treasure we have in the Monocacy and all waterways. I also care about property rights. Certainly, any waterbody law or plan should reasonably protect both and above all, do no harm. Such a balance is critical to good governance. Fortunately, this balance exists in current waterbody regulations which are effectively and reasonably protecting waterways, negating any need for the Buffer Bill.

The Buffer Bill issue reminds me of something my father told me when I was a young boy. He said, “If you didn’t earn it and I didn’t give it to you, it’s not yours to take. That would be stealing, which is wrong.” It also reminds me of the Monocacy River Plan update fiasco which caused public alarm. All due to language in the initial draft provided by Frederick County government (during County Executive Jan Gardner’s Administration) that recommended the counties take control of 8,000 acres of river-front land by unnecessary, vast buffer expansions without evidence of need.

Attorneys called this an “unconstitutional, unsupported regulatory-taking of private land” by local government. Citizens called it a government land grab. Fortunately, the plan was reasonably revised as more sound political judgements later prevailed.

This is either an unintended misguided bill or another land grab by design. Those who vote for the Buffer Bill should be voted out of office.

Earl Bell served as chairman of the Monocacy River Board.

(47) comments

rb789

THANK YOU EARL BELL FOR YOUR INSIGHTFUL ARTICLE POINTING OUT FACTS AND TRUTHS ON THE WATER BUFFER BILL ISSUE. The FNP commentary threads on this article and other related issues seem to be dominated by a handful of the same old commentators who resort to slinging mud; misinformation; and attack tactics to wrongly try and discredit others they disagree with! This occurs because they can't defend their positions with facts, so they go into the "attack" the messenger mode along with various made up information they claim as facts. Sad to witness such actions.

hgiii123

Thank you Lisa for attempting to come to the defense of Earl. Debunked and selective “Yale study.” “Attorneys” who are disbarred and discredited as his legal source of truth. Got it. You are the keeper of all environmental truth and science.

MD1756

Hardly facts and truths. That letter is the definition of misinformation irresponsibility and mud slinging by calling protection to the environment and making people clean up their own pollution immoral. Like the letter writer, you have no ground to stand on. I have defended my position numerous times with facts as have others. Maybe you live in the same world as our current president who claimed he wanted science then ignores it when it doesn't match his narrative.

matts853

Projecting much, Lisa?

hayduke2

Gee Lisa Bell, you support the misleading ramblings of Earl.

threecents

RB, I honestly don't know if the new regulations are worthwhile, but I would like to know your opinion: Is it a liberal land grab or an attempt to improve water quality?

phydeaux994

Time for the Bells to stop tolling. Their clappers are all worn out.

hgiii123

"They're back!" The "Alternative Facts" diatribe from Earl and Lisa. Like a bad dream, I thought they exposed as quacks with their failed attempt at highjacking the Monocacy River Plan, but guess that was just wishful thinking. So many misleading, and outright false, statements and implied messages: Wasn't the "attorney" that disbarred former MD attorney who took off for Idaho to join the rest of the cabal to overthrow the govt and him being prosecuted for taking silver in payment and then absconding with it (vs US currency)? Wasn't this the same Yale report that was debunked during the Monocacy River Plan hearings (notice how he mentions "sediment" only; conveniently doesn't mention the very harmful nutrient runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous etc.). Or is this just a political hit job and layup for the 2022 County Exec election? So disappointing, Earl. P.S. Haven't seen the bulldozers building bike paths across private property along the Monocacy yet, but hear that's in the works:-)

hayduke2

Spot on !!!

matts853

👍🏻👍🏻HG!

TomWheatley

Don't remember the year, but at some point Frederick City was running short on water and asked the State for permission to draw some or more water from the Monocacy. The temporary use was granted and as far as I know, was never rescinded thus allowing the City to grow even more dependent on the Monocacy. And even further back, there was talk of a large lake to the Northwest of the City. That good old growth thing again.

matts853

Earl Bell is full of it and himself. He can deny it all day but he’s been given the facts about the water quality. Excess nitrogen and sediment loads increase in the Monocacy and streams when the water flows through Frederick County. So when he repeats his false claims that there’s no water quality issues to address he’s either lying or just isn’t able to retain the information.

This bill is grossly misunderstood. It only applies to steeply sloped areas (I forget the gradient thresholds but it we’re talking steep) where moving soil for homes or other structures would be highly invasive to the natural landscape, like blasting rock and such. The extended buffer width is also graduated in according to the gradient percent. Finally, this bill in no way diminishes the total yield of houses that can be subdivided on a particular property. That’s based on total acreage and this bill doesn’t affect that. Homes may have to be built a little farther away from the water in order to minimize grading on steep slopes. These slopes are also not cultivated so there’s no loss of farm land.

Earl Bell is the reason the “long standing” river board was blown up. He chaired it like a bully and placed fast and loose with the facts. He attempted to bastardize the Plan by stripping it of science. Not too mention the fact that he was a ringer representing Carroll County even though he’s a Frederick County resident and registered voter. Carroll used the excuse that he’s also a landowner in Carroll to get him on the board.

Earl is a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

hayduke2

Matt- [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

threecents

I don't know which side is more correct than the other, but what I distrust is those who insist this is just a property rights issue and the county is trying to make a "land grab". To me that sounds like nonsense and like these land owners think there should be no government oversight or involvement with their land. Bells, Sorry if you feel oppressed, but I trust our Council's judgment more than yours.

MD1756

I would say "Help stop immoral property owners from infringing on the rights and resources of the general public." How about we just raise your taxes enough to clean the harm you are causing by refusing to keep your pollution on your own property, and throw a penalty on top of the because you are knowingly polluting the river and causing harm to those living and making a living downstream? On top of that you should be charged with an economic benefit component for the decades of avoided costs while farmers and others continuing to discharge their pollution. Farming activities are the largest source of pollution for a number of pollutants that are harming the Chesapeake Bay. It's time to stop whining and own up to one's responsibilities to the general public and not take subsidies from the public while causing harm to the public.

It is clear the bill is needed because farmers have not taken sufficient action on their own, despite being given years to do so, to stop their polluting the environment. The writer has no ground to stand on when calling the county government immoral especially since they are not "taking" any land. It is more like rezoning in order to stop your adverse impact on the environment and others. I think we should stop the immoral payments farmers receive from the public to pay for controlling their pollution. Let them pay their own way.

I have yet to see any of the Bells explain how they will control their pollution in order to restore the ecological health waterways that they themselves have harmed. Other sources of pollution have enforceable regulations that must be followed. Will the Bells accept regulations with harsh statutory penalties for noncompliance? Will they be willing to install monitors at the upstream and downstream points of their property in order to monitor compliance? If any Bell answers yes to that, then maybe a buffer wouldn't be needed.

threecents

MD[thumbup] Yah, a lot of this is about trust. Can we trust these land owners to take care of the river, or do we need to add more regulations?

NewMarketParent

@threecents

All I keep thinking about is the dust bowl and how a big piece of the pie was that individual farms were making decisions without a big coordination point like the Federal Government. The result was that the ecology in the Midwest was damaged severely for the 1930's. People always want to paint the Federal Government as the boogeyman when they don't get their way or think that they should get more money for their property.

This feels like more of the same.

We really all need to start factoring the environmental costs into product prices/practices rather than forcing the those costs onto the tax payer via cleanup efforts.

MD1756

[thumbup]

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

hayduke2

The Bells remind me of the family that buys land next to an airport and then complains about the airport. You purchased land next to a valuable resource, you have an obligation to protect that resource as it doesn't stop at your property lines and serves a bigger purpose.

DickD

Not quite the same Hay. When you move next to an airport, you realize the hazards. Buying next to a stream you expect some drainage from your property, some flooding from the river, you don't want to pollute it, but some pollution would happen no matter who owns the land. The question is how much pollution you cause, how polluted the River is with or without any pollution from you and what are others doing to pollute the River. Seems like Carroll County is doing a lot of the pollution and may be the pollution in Frederick County counts for so little it doesn't matter. Where are the studies and what can be done to control ALL pollution entering the River. Personally, I feel it was a mistake to separate from Carroll County in trying to control pollution. And I am not real keen on any government controlling private land.

shiftless88

Government often controls private lands. For example, if you build near an airport there are restrictions on how high you can build and such.

C.D.Reid

Ya know hay, a lot of the farms around here were handed down from generation to generation. Long before any of these infringing laws were put into place.

matts853

And it was stupid for previous generations to have clear cut all the way to rivers’ edge. No one thought about runoff, or sediment, or used the chemicals we have today, or gave a second thought to how bad it was for cows to stomp, poop and pee in the water. Land management back in the day was shortsighted and has created a mess with water quality throughout the Bay watershed. So just because this legacy of poor land use still exists we just say, ‘oh well, my property rights matter more than clean water or people who make a living on the Bay.’

NewMarketParent

@matts853

What's the old saying that once you know better, you do better.

Everyone used to believe that you could just throw your trash into the world and good old mother nature would deal with it. Now, we put it in trash cans. If we now realize our individual impact, we should strive to do better.

The only time when people seem to deny listening to science is when it affects their bottom line.

hgiii123

And the population density was one person every 10 miles (pick a number), and the technology of the time were axes, shovels, oxen power, and muzzle loading percussion rifles, such that what a person did didn't have that much of an impact on anyone else (although it was still environmental exploitation and desecration nonetheless). Not the case any more, and since we, as humans, can't seems to self police in a conscientious and responsible manner for the greater good, such that our actions don't impact our neighbors, we need constraints, and the only solution seems to be govt regulation. "We made our bed and now have to sleep in it," comes to mind. Past abuses don't justify a continuation of same, particularly when it impacts others so profoundly. Further, our human history is one of exploitation: If something has value (minerals, forests, water etc.), we exploit it for personal individual gain, and that "God given right" just doesn't play any more. It ain't the frontier any more, but rather we're all part of a community of interest, and need to act accordingly. Stop polluting and exploiting and we wouldn't have to worry about such things, but that's not the case.

MD1756

Before muzzle loading percussion rifles in this country were muzzle loading flintlocks.

hayduke2

And laws and regulations change over time, especially if a need is apparent so I fail to see your point.

hgiii123

The point is given we as individual citizens can't seem to correctly police and care for our own property and do the right thing by the environment, and others, we should expect more govt regulation to compensate.

gary4books

All of us (left, right, center or what ever) should want clean water to drink. Not much partisan about that. If the rules work toward that goal, they should be studied and voted on. Nobody has a right to pollute the water. And it seems to be very moral to want to protect it.

Dwasserba

Not taking a side, but the letter stated "...the bill’s increased buffer size will have no practical effect to improve water quality (which is the purpose of the bill) due to significant diminishing returns in effectiveness of larger buffers in filtering pollutants." And goes from there into more detail.

hayduke2

Buffers work. The details you refer to are misleading. To go from 90% to 94% is significant and varies with adjacent land usage, slope and type of cover. As with all statistics, you can make various claims. However, the bottom line is buffers work.

shiftless88

The "scientific backing" presented here was pretty weak and would certainly depend on many things not mentioned. It is funny how he even tries to provide citations but the citations themselves are rather useless.

gary4books

So it did. At that point I did not believe it. The statements are rather vague and generic.

NewMarketParent

@gary4books

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

FrederickFan

Here come the Bells with their ridiculous conspiracy theories. No one is coming to grab your property. No one wants your property. Unless you are a developer, this proposal does not affect you.

hayduke2

Funny, the Bell's and their followers can't claim that the original buffer setbacks caused them any issues prior to being changed by the Blaine BOCC. Why, because it wasn't a land grab or hardship. This is all nonsense.

pdl603

Here come the lefties to take away your rights as American citizens, but who didn’t know this was going to happen? After all that is what they do. They can’t help themselves.

duffy5x

Spare us. The GOP is as vile and corrupt as they can possibly be. You’re done.

hayduke2

pdl - one could get into things like " here come the righties, the heck with environmental protections. Pollute the air, drop coal ash in the streams, clear cut the mountain top and leave a mess, add to climate change, etc. but that serves no purpose."

MD1756

[thumbup]

MD1756

pdl603, what is wrong with expecting people not to pollute property and resources they don't own? Farmers' are the largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and they have not been able (more likely they have been unwilling) to stop their pollution. Thus they can either live with setbacks (which is more like rezoning since they still own their property) or are they willing to put up with strict enforceable regulations including monitoring requirements in order to control their pollution and pay heafty fines when not in compliance?

C.D.Reid

Farmers are also the largest source for the food you eat, too. And increasing these restrictions, like the buffer, reduces the amount of land they can grow your food on.

MD1756

Not an issue for me. They can raise the price to offset the cost. It is no excuse for not cleaning up after themselves. Refiners are the source of all the gasoline I use and yet they have been under increasing regulation to mitigate/prevent their environmental harm. On my end, I now have a plug-in hybrid so just about all of my local driving is using electric and since I have a 12.3 kW solar system on the house, most of it goes to my home energy use but now the surplus goes towards running my car. I'm doing my part to reduce my adverse environmental impact and I expect the same from others.

matts853

This bill has absolutely nothing to do with cultivation on private property.

hgiii123

This legislation applies to slopes of 15-25% (increasing buffer from 125' to 150') and greater than 25% increasing buffer from 150' to 175'). Not too many farmers cropping in those conditions, AND, this legislation ONLY APPLIES to new subdivision requests or re-subdivision requests, which doesn't imply farming, but rather DEVELOPMENT. So your point was what? Please, get the facts before passing judgement and crying property rights taking.

matts853

I doubt anyone on the planet has taken more land than Donald J. Trump. He used eminent domain as a standard business practice to build his empire. And he did it with force. Now he’s undertaking perhaps the biggest land grab in history by building his border wall on the ranches.

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