Kent can’t control all property
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Kent can’t control all property

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Eric Buckson’s explanation regarding his anti-development decisions in Kent County during recent Levy Court decisions sounds logical and convincing until you analyze exactly what he is proposing and the consequences.

What Buckson and his followers are proposing is to stop all development in Kent County. They claim they are simply enacting good planning ordinances, but their policies will have the opposite effect.

They want to micro-manage and replace a complex development process that requires efficient allocation of vast sums of private investment capital with another set of detailed government regulations that will be impossible to satisfy. Their idea is to hide an anti-development agenda with friendly slogans like “anti-sprawl” and “open space.”

This process started in 2002 with the misguided idea that Kent County officials should force all development into a narrow corridor along Route 13 called the “growth zone.” Sounded great, but the consequences were bad and predictable. Traffic swelled within this artificial 5-mile-wide zone and angered the locals who lived in small communities within its boundaries, including Camden-Wyoming where Buckson generates his supporters. Why did Levy Court put everyone in my back yard, they ask?

The outlying areas of the county were declared off limits to development in the name of anti-sprawl.

The second unintended consequence was tremendous inequity in property values. Farmers outside the growth zone were left with land values of $5,000 an acre and prohibited from residential use of their lands, while farmers within the growth zone were offered $100,000 an acre for their lands.

Had Kent County government permitted developers to locate in the 75 percent of county lands declared off limits to development, the traffic impact would have been distributed, and the public outcry never would have happened.

Today’s rules would not have permitted a model community like Wild Quail Country Club to locate in rural Hazletville. County planners routinely prohibit development in areas where new homeowners really want to live.

Government planners, including the governor, claim that development in outlying areas costs the state extra money and is inefficient. It worked in the past. For many years all infrastructure in the state has been paid by fees and taxes on fuel, property and income. Roads and waste treatment facilities were built with tax revenue as needed. Developers located land and agreed to build streets, storm water ponds and facilities for residents.

Now Buckson and many state planners have declared that this systemr suitable, that the government needs to enact a new set of rules that will permit Kent County and the state to decide where individuals should live and work. The state will decide who can sell property and for what purpose, and an “adequate public facilities” ordinance will require all infrastructure to be built in advance of any development.

Can you imagine the county and state agreeing to expand boundaries, install facilities, build roads and schools in anticipation of new development? The true impact of this ordinance will be to halt all development in Kent County. No developer or contractor is going to pay in advance for all the utilities formerly covered by tax revenues.

State and local governments will then keep taxes previously allocated to pay for infrastructure and expand their role to become a larger employer in Delaware than they already are.

Overdevelopment is always corrected by changes in the free-market economy, if elected officials would be patient and not intercede with government regulations. The recent real estate boom came to a halt last spring and there is now a real estate contraction. Over-development was reined in by forces of the free market without any help from politicians. The balance works great!

The concept of a temporary moratorium is simply another disguise for Kent County to halt all development. The courts will eventually overturn this moratorium and other attempts to set up unfairness and inequities in valuation and sale of private property.

Why should county government tell a farmer in Leipsic he can only develop his farm if he has 10 acres for each home, when a farmer in Felton must have four acres and a farmer in Canterbury only needs one acre or less. This policy is an attempt to control the fundamental right to buy and sell private property without undue government interference.

The county should set broad guidelines for density and stay out of the business of deciding where people live and work. The state should take the enormous tax revenues it collects and provide for public facilities where private investment chooses to locate.

The idea of state control of private lands and government control of the economy has proved inefficient and counter-productive in many failed governments that rejected capitalism and private enterprise.

No jobs, no home building, no new businesses. There will be no young people moving to Kent County. We will watch retirement communities and nursing homes proliferate in a Florida model.

By Dave Kenton, delawareonline.com

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