February 2018 Update: "Stop the Monocacy River Government Land Grab!"

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Urgent follow-up to previous petition called “Stop the Monocacy Land Grab.”

 A New Call to Action!

 Please help protect the property rights of Monocacy River landowners, and in turn, the rights of others.

 When the government diminishes the property rights of some citizens…it diminishes the rights of ALL citizens.

THIS PETITION: Requests the governing representatives voting on the updated (8/2/17) Monocacy River Plan - to protect citizens’ private property rights and land. As a local resident, I ask you to reject the River Plan and reform it with necessary changes, to prevent undue harm to citizens.

Bottom Line Up Front:  The Monocacy River Plan needs strong property rights protection language inserted. And all mention of zoning changes, restrictions on private property, regulatory action, and involuntary river buffer initiatives - should be removed (as no evidence of need or scientific basis specific to The Monocacy exists to support the above).

Additionally, ambiguous recommendations that can later be broadly interpreted to impose restrictions on private property or cause damage to land owners, should be removed.

We also ask Frederick & Carroll counties to retain at least two (2) Monocacy River landowners from each county, to serve on The Monocacy River Board along with a Farm Bureau representative or a citizen from the agricultural community. The River Board had ZERO representation of Monocacy landowners on the Frederick County side of the board creating a troublesome & unfair imbalance for nearly 6 months while the River Plan update was further revised & finalized. It also breaches the intent of the MD Scenic & Wild Rivers Act (under which the Monocacy River Board was first established) which aims to have a fair mix of citizens on the River Board including land owners contiguous to the river from both counties.

This imbalance compromised the River Plan revision process and corresponding votes by the River Board, including the vote to “finalize” and recommend the plan to local governments.

The Problem with The River Plan is this:

Even after the updated River Plan was revised (due to public uproar) - the plan still remains unacceptable.

It contains provisions that if adopted, can lead to governmental policies that infringe on property rights; reduce property values; and result in unwarranted land use & zoning restrictions to private property along The Monocacy.

The River Plan’s fate now lies with the local governments who will decide whether to adopt the revised River Plan as-is; reject it; or approve it with modifications.

If the updated River Plan is adopted, it is vital to make reforms that protect citizens’ property rights. Please include the reasonable reforms provided by The Farm Bureau; The Association of Realtors; and Monocacy River Landowners.

Their aim is to have a sound & effective River Plan that protects both The Monocacy River and property rights. Certainly, a successful plan can be adopted that achieves both!

(For more on the River Plan issue, please keep reading below):

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When the longstanding Monocacy River Plan was updated by the Monocacy River Board in late 2016, it created a firestorm of opposition - causing the Board to revise the plan in 2017. Numerous citizens along with the highly regarded Farm Bureau, and Association of Realtors spoke up to defend property rights and oppose the initial River Plan update. (These groups are also opposed to the final revised plan).

Many called the initial River Plan update an attack on property rights and “government over-reach.” The plan called for taking nearly 8,000 acres of private land along The Monocacy - to be under government control / restrictions. All for no credible reason and without compensation to owners.

In essence, this was land confiscation via government regulations.

Frederick County provided much of the new content to the River Plan update including inserting the unnecessary & egregious recommendation to create a huge, regulatory river buffer cutting deep into private property.

The buffer was 300 - 500 feet minimum, and extended beyond 500 feet in numerous locations. In some cases, stretching thousands of feet (up to 5,000 feet - more than 14 football fields!). Even Carroll County’s Water Resource Supervisor & Liaison to the River Board said in a 1/23/17 Frederick News Post article: “There is no scientific backing for the proposed buffer width…if the River Board is going to make recommendations, it needs to be based on available science.” He also said: “Putting a large buffer on a river already carrying polluted water isn’t going to clean the water.”

According to experts including the Carroll County Water Resource Supervisor, the primary sources of pollution to The Monocacy are not private properties along the river, but derived from the vast 960 square mile watershed along with sources upstream, and urban run-off. Increasing the existing buffers (which are highly sufficient) does nothing to get to the root of the problem.

You should also know that The Monocacy’s water quality has been successfully improving and things are on a positive trajectory!  This is because ample federal, state & local regulations and conservation programs area already in place that help protect the river.

Worse still, the River Plan update called for land use restrictions within the regulatory buffer while allowing “recreational opportunities” such as bike paths (Ch.10 pg 1, Oct. 2016 plan). Public access of private property is unacceptable! 

Frederick County has a history of trying to needlessly expand The Monocacy River buffers with the stated intent of using the private land in the buffer for recreational purposes including bike paths / trails.

A former Monocacy River Board Chairman, Mr. Allen, submitted a public comment on the River Plan update that said: “I served on the River Board from 2001-2008. During this time Frederick County suggested & endorsed a plan for a vast land setback along the Monocacy – which involved, in effect, the taking of property rights along the river from land owners…for no legitimate reason.” As the land was to be used “for a recreational area.”

If the government wants private property, there’s a right way and a wrong way to acquire it. The right way is for the government to purchase private land from willing sellers. The wrong way is to essentially, take it through a sneaky back door tactic of unnecessary government regulations!

Back to the revised River Plan: To be clear, some good revisions were made to the plan including removing the egregious regulatory river buffer – but then later, many positive steps were undermined.

For example, after the river buffer idea was rejected & removed as unnecessary - it was in concept, re-inserted back into the plan with information & suggestions pushing for wider buffers (Ch. 5). There is no scientific rationale or need specific to The Monocacy to expand the existing sufficient river buffers ranging from 50-150 feet. These buffer requirements are fine and already meet or exceed EPA / Environmental Protection Agency and Dept of Agriculture buffer width recommendations of 35-100 feet.

Moreover, unwarranted ZONING CHANGES to private riverfront land are recommended in the revised River Plan (Pg 6-20 item 6-4). And the strong property rights language that was voted into the plan, was shockingly, voted out later by the majority voting block - leaving the plan unacceptably weak in protecting citizen’s property rights.

The language removed was “This plan does not advocate public use of private property; the compromise of Constitutional property rights; or recommend zoning changes.” Additionally, ambiguous provisions still remain that should be removed.

To view the finalized “August 2017 River Board Recommended Plan” and the two prior draft plans that were released, go to the link below. (Scroll down to the bottom of the web page to view the plans).

https://frederickcountymd.gov/7115/2016-Update-of-the-Monocacy-River-Manage



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