Saturday, January 20, 2007


Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.

A proposal for the Rural Tier: This proposal recommends that the County Council and Planning Commission initiate a new public involvement and planning process on issues related to the preservation of the rural tier. This process should be open to all residents of the Rural Tier who wish to participate.

The process should seek to create solutions that advance the diverse needs of our citizens – including economic well-being, adequate public safety, quality education, transportation, and the environment. It is essential to preserve both the rural character of our land and the equity of our citizens in the land that they own.

Incentives and Compensation: The process should focus on incentives rather than draconian restrictions. Such incentives should support agricultural ventures both large and small. The County should expand funding for such programs as PDRs and should take full advantage of Maryland Rural Legacy funding and similar programs. As a basic principal, land owners should be fully compensated for lost development opportunities.

Design Charrettes: To the maximum extent possible the process should aim to create vision and consensus. A good model is the design charrette which has been used effectively in many areas including Prince George’s County. This process should draw on the expertise of other jurisdictions and design professionals that have worked to involve citizens in the planning the future of their communities. The planning process should also incorporate a detailed understanding of the natural resources of the rural tier. There are some areas that are critical and sensitive resources and some areas (e.g. declining developed areas) that may benefit from further development. “One-size fits all” misses the boat. One possibility is to have an involvement process initially for each of the Sections of the Rural Tier (e.g. Croom-Aquasco, Central Patuxent, etc.).This can be followed by meetings that involve representatives from each group to develop consensus but also to note the diverse needs and opportunities in the different sections.

Economic Development and Opportunity: The plan should involve County government’s active role in promoting and expanding economic opportunities which take advantage of the rural tier’s unique assets. Such opportunities include a diverse range of agricultural and recreational enterprises. The plan should be based on a survey of existing and potential opportunities and seek examples of innovations used in other rural areas. Examples include:

· New and attractive farmers markets at key locations
· Working with area supermarkets to buy and feature local produce
· Helping farmers reach markets
· Developing an attractive town center in declining portions of Brandywine
· Low cost food processing facilities available to the public
· Encouraging bed and breakfasts, country inns, pubs
· Tax incentives for start up businesses
· County-assisted agricultural ventures
· Amphibious vehicle tours (such as those in Washington DC)

These are only a few of the many ideas that can emerge once we start to view the Rural Tier in a different way. More housing is not the only form of economic development. Moreover, the profits of local agricultural and recreational ventures remain in the community.

There is clearly a national trend toward locally grown farm products. This trend is likely to accelerate as the cost of fuel, transportation and refrigeration increases as it inevitably will. Prince George’s County and the Rural Tier is in an ideal location to take advantage of this trend with huge potential markets in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.

Let’s have a fresh start: The recommended process would take the place CB75 and the proposed SMA currently before the Council and the Planning Board respectively. It would benefit from adequate funding and a continuation of th

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