Monday, December 18, 2006

Editorial: Let the voters decide

I have to say, I am absolutely horrified by an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is encouraging a massive invasion of a farmer's personal property rights.

Basically, the government will be able to purchase the rights of a private property owner to keep the private property owner from selling their land to developers.

The government is not actually purchasing the land from the farmers, they are just purchasing the "rights" of the farmer to keep them from selling the land.

As I said, I am horrified, but I do not have time to finish my thoughts on this. I will come back later and finish my thoughts.

We felt it was a mistake in June when the Washington County Board rescinded a program aimed at helping farmers resist the pressures of development and at preserving some of the prime agricultural land in the county. But the board could act soon after the new year to let voters have the final say on whether the county should re-enact a purchase-of-development-rights program.

Giving voters the choice would let citizens help decide what kind of county they want to live in and what kind of county they want to leave their children.

According to a report issued by a special county committee in February, local development pressures almost doubled the amount of land converted from rural to urban land uses each year after 1995. County Supervisor Dan Stoffel and other land preservation advocates believe the county is losing nearly 1,500 acres, or 2.3 square miles, of agricultural land to development annually.

Agriculture is still important to the county, supporting nearly 5,000 jobs and pumping $629.9 million annually into the local economy, according to a 2004 study by the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Purchase-of-development-rights programs have been used to good effect in other states. And although there has been no action so far to create a statewide program in Wisconsin, several municipalities have created their own programs. Were Washington County voters to approve such a program, it would be the first countywide program in the state.

Under purchase-of-development-rights programs, a government or land trust purchases the right to develop the land of farmers who apply. A permanent deed restriction is placed on the property after the purchase that bars owners from selling the land to developers. The owners are free to use the property otherwise as they choose.


No comments: