At 6PM, Tuesday March 19, 2019, the Kent County Commissioners are holding a Public hearing to consider a text amendment that would make a change to the Kent County Land Use Ordinance. The change under consideration would authorize utility scale solar electric generation plants to be an allowed use, with special exception, in Rural and Community Residential Zoning Districts.
This text amendment change is being requested by Urban Grid Corporation for a project that would occupy 400+ acres at 616 Morgnec Road (across the street from Atlantic Tractor, Brambles Construction). While this project has a direct and immediate impact on the homes surrounding this particular property, the text amendment has implications for all of Kent County. The language of the amendment clears the way to allow large utility scale solar on any property with a Rural or Community Residential Zonedesignation. These are industrial projects that have long term consequences for residential neighborhoods.
Kent Conservation & Preservation Alliance is opposed to this change. This text amendment benefits corporations over neighborhoods. Kent County has already zoned land that allows for utility scale solar.
Commissioners’ Hearing Room Kent County Government Center 400 High Street Chestertown, Maryland
KENT COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETING AGENDA OCTOBER 2, 2018 AT 6PM
This Tuesday’s meeting agenda includes the annual visit of Pete Rahn, Secretary of Maryland Transportation. Along with him will be MDTA Executive Director, Kevin Reigrut and Director, Melissa Williams.
The other important guests at this meeting will be the 36th District Delegation. Senator Hershey, Delegates Jacobs, Arentz and Ghrist will be asking for and talking about specific items for inclusion in the upcoming 2019 Maryland Legislative session.
This is a good opportunity to show up and be counted as opposed to a Bay Bridge terminating in Kent County.
Please attend, your presence will send a message.
This meeting will take place in the Kent County Commissioners hearing room. 400 High Street, Chestertown, MD 21620. The meeting is live streamed.
John Sprinkle, Jr., a Kent County native and National Park Service historian since 1989, will deliver a lecture at 6:30 PM Oct 5, 2018 focusing on his new book: Saving Spaces: Historic land conservation in the United States. John holds a doctorate in American history and a masters in historical archaeology from the College of William and Mary. He has previously published Crafting the Preservation Criteria: The Origins of the National Register of Historic Places.
The Chestertown 1st Friday presentation will be followed by a wine reception and book signing at the Bookplate, 112 S. Cross St, Chestertown, MD. Join KCPA to hear a historical overview of the struggles to conserve both individual parcels and whole landscapes from being destroyed. Event is free and open to the public.
“Federal infrastructure spending tends to make cities poorer not wealthier because, while the federal government may pay the initial cost to build a new highway or bridge, it’s local governments that take on the long-term maintenance liabilities, often going into enormous amounts of debt to do so.”
Chuck Marohn, Strong Towns
Let’s be clear, the state of Maryland is not going to build a multi-billion dollar bridge to help the Kent County economy. They would be better off just giving millions to each person and call it a day.
So let’s ask the question, what if Kent County does not get a bridge? What if the study determines a landing point south of the current bridge would have a better impact than one to the north (Kent County)? Or what if they determine a no build is the best plan and instead invest in other less expensive ways of reducing traffic? What would we then do to help our economic development?
To start, invest in what we already have.
“Small businesses can be underappreciated and under-supported,” writes Quint Studer of Strong Towns. “After all, when a downtown is filled with cool coffee shops, locally owned restaurants, microbreweries, and quirky boutiques—together with plenty of strong non-retail players like architects, ad agencies, and attorneys—that downtown is often the heart and soul of a vibrant community.”
We should be finding investments to make what we already have stronger whether it be support for locally owned businesses, housing, schools, outdoor recreation, transportation, agriculture, etc. Numerous studies show that when communities invest in their local businesses, those businesses then invest in the communities that support them. In turn, as Studer explains, “It creates that sense of “place” that attracts tourists, young people and a talented workforce, and yes, bigger businesses and other investors who drive further growth.”
Good news: Kent County already has a sense of place. If we can make multiple small local investments without relying on massive infrastructure project that would not even see completion for more than a decade, we can find immediate solutions and growth. We can make small incremental investments now by observing how our current infrastructure does not work and find creative ways to fix it. We can invest in our residents by asking what they need and finding small steps to helpful solutions.
Here are some ideas from Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn:
“We’re talking about things like putting in street trees, painting crosswalks, patching sidewalks, and making changes to zoning regulations to provide more flexibility for neighborhood businesses, accessory apartments and parking. If we try some things and they don’t work, we don’t lose much because they don’t cost much. We learn from our small failures and try something else”
That said, what if we get that bridge and it turns Kent County into a suburb of Baltimore and we lose that sense of place? I know the county has strong zoning laws, but what if our local businesses close because residents can drive to Baltimore for all their needs? There are so many unknowns on top of the major costs for such a project.
Let us improve what we have before we build a bridge from which there is no return.
KENT COUNTY STILL ENDANGERED AS BAY CROSSING STUDY CONTINUES
Evaluation for the 3rd span locations in the Bay Crossing Study is ongoing. The MDTA is scheduled to announce those “corridors” at a public meeting in January 2019. Your comments to the MDTA about location, feasibility for a third span, potential effects on Kent County, and any suggestions for alternatives are extremely important. Contractors and the MDTA staff are collecting data with no public involvement other than comments. We need everyone to continue to send comments to the MDTA, which has told us repeatedly that comments are important to the process. You can comment online or by mailing your comments to:
Heather Lowe, Project Manager
2310 Broening Highway
Baltimore, MD 21224
Visit KCPA website for more information and addresses of elected officials – be sure to let them hear from you, too, by sharing your comments with them as well.
Zane Carter had an interesting Op-Ed in the Chestertown Spy on the distortion of the MDTA’s visual presentations on traffic. The visual data did not correspond to the real numbers. If you missed the commentary it is worth reading.
Michele K. Gross, Manager, Government Relations for the MDTA, has stated “please be assured that our modeling and analysis is based on accurate geographic locations and origins and destinations.” However, KCPA’s request for release of the MDTA’s methodology has been refused as of this publication. The lack of sharing does not allow the public to make an assessment or understand how the Bay Crossing Study staff and contractors compile and analyze their data. More transparency is necessary and KCPA will continue to make transparency a priority.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO WRITE TODAY
GRANT AWARD FOR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE ASSESSMENT
KCPA was awarded a grant from the Arthur Kudner Jr. Fund at a recent Mid-Shore Community Foundation event, “Changes & Challenges on the Mid-Shore.” The breakfast meeting focused on the impact that Mid-Shore has in the communities it serves and was also the opportunity for Mid-Shore to award grants to non-profit organizations. We are grateful to the Kudner Fund and to the foundation for their help.
The Kudner Fund’s generous grant supports KCPA in funding a Cultural Landscape Assessment to identify the unique cultural and historic heritage in Kent County. Identifying Kent’s special qualities has taken on even more meaning as we oppose locating a bay bridge here. KCPA plans to present the findings of the assessment to the MDTA to demonstrate the importance of Kent’s historical resources and cultural heritage in the Bay Crossing Study’s examination of potential environmental impacts.
Grant support has also been given to the KCPA’s Cultural Landscape Assessment by the National Trust for Historic Preservation through the Bartus Trew Providence Preservation Fund, Preservation Maryland, and the Kent County Commissioners.
Washington College’s GIS lab, part of our expert team for the assessment, has finished the necessary mapping, including an interesting process of comparing historical maps to present-day patterns in the landscape. We expect that other team members will be in Kent County in mid-July doing the field work for their evaluation. The information collected will then be used in the analysis and eventual report.
KCPA believes that the whole of the context of this landscape is important to our history. This evaluation by experts will evaluate and document how and where this landscape remains intact and excels in conveying that history.
KCPA has requested standing as mandated by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, a part of the MDTA’s (and the Federal Highway Administration’s) environmental review responsibilities in the Bay Crossing Study. Our consultation in the process will allow us to highlight the importance of Kent County’s cultural landscape as well as such historic landmarks as Caulk’s Field, one of the state’s finest remaining battlefields from the War of 1812.
Photo Courtesy of Tyler Campbell
VISIT REPRESENTATIVES FROM KCPA AT THE FARMERS MARKET
KCPA has a table in the farmer’s market most Saturdays. Stop by for updates and information about the Bay Crossing Study. You will find written instructions for sending comments to the Study and to Maryland’s elected leaders to voice your opposition to the bridge. Look for us between 10 AM and noon to pick up a yard sign and to chat.
EASTERN NECK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Refuge is in danger of losing funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a Refuge Manager position. Without this funding allocation, Eastern Neck could close for the foreseeable future. Your letters describing the importance of the refuge to Kent County could help to make sure that funding cuts are not made.
Please help the Friends of Eastern Neck by writing or emailing a message to:
National Wildlife System
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035-9589
Donations to KCPA are important as we continue to mount opposition to a third bay crossing to and through Kent County. We especially want to extend our appreciation to all our supporters who have made donations to fund KCPA’s efforts. An all-volunteer Board of Directors, who donate their time, guides our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Any money donated to KCPA goes entirely to support our efforts to raise awareness of, and fight when necessary, unwise projects that have the potential to destroy the character and quality of life enjoyed in Kent County.
Damaging projects will continue to be proposed for Kent County by developers who view farmland as open land waiting to be developed. However, Kent’s prime farmland is being used for exactly its purpose- the production of food to ensure food security in a region that is losing farmland at an alarming rate. The farmland of Kent County is home to much of the history and culture of the county, and residents should be proud of the fact that this landscape has remained intact for nearly four centuries through good stewardship and protective measures.
We need to remain vigilant. Twenty minutes to our north, history has been obliterated with the demolition of Hedgelawn in Middletown, DE and the destruction of most of the historic farm landscape that once flanked the U.S. Highway 301.
Your support is always needed and appreciated to help us ensure this does not happen in Kent County. Donations can be made online or sent to the contact address below.
As many as 200 residents came and went from the Maryland Transit Authority public information meeting on Purpose and Need for Bay Crossing held May 10th from 6-8 PM at the Chestertown Middle School. The format of the meeting did not include a formal presentation or an open mike for public statements. Instead a display of screen shots from the MDTA website were placed around the room with MDTA staff paced around the room to answer questions. There was no available seating except for several tables set up for attendees to sit and fill out comment sheets supplied by the MDTA. The lack of seating made it difficult for some attendees to stay very long or hear the various responses to questions around the room.
Kent Alliance made a presentation to to offer additional information and to counter some of the statements made in the visuals supplied by the MDTA. Most everyone in the room gathered to listen but unfortunately it was not heard by all that attended because the format of the meeting did not lend itself to everyone staying for the entire evening.
There was some frustration expressed by attendees after asking questions. Because the MDTA staff were from specific departments of the study group many of the responses were a variation of ” that is not my area so I do not have an answer”. It seemed that the second most common answer was “we have not studied that issue yet”.
There were some lively discussions with MDTA staff members where alternatives were openly discussed and the logic of MDTA early decisions were debated politely but earnestly. Unfortunately the format of the meeting prevented all from hearing these important discussions.
By the end of the meeting MDTA staff members were commenting that they certainly knew where Kent County stood on all of the aspects of the Bay Crossing Study. That makes the meeting a success. But we need to keep sounding the message. Please keep sending the emails and letters to the MDTA, the governor, and our state legislators.
“The strategic value of U.S. agricultural land is now more
important than ever, and any further loss of the best land
for intensive food and crop production is short-sighted at
American Farmland Trust Report: Farms Under Threat, 2018
Right now, the Prime soils of Kent County’s farmland are at risk. A new crossing of the bay with a terminus in Kent County would have irreversible consequences. The story of why the protection of our land has been so successful lies, in part, to the distance of the County from major population centers. Urban sprawl has not been a viable option. The overwhelming development pressures of housing, shopping centers and roads is absent.
How unique and rare are the quality soils of Kent County? American Farmland Trust has undertaken a multi-year initiative to analyze the state of farmland in America. The first report has been released. Only 17% of all farmland in the US is high-quality. This is based on an analysis of the lands productivity, versatility, and resiliency (PVR); where the soils, micro-climates, growing seasons, and water availability combine to allow intensive production with fewest environmental impacts. The soils of Kent County have a high value PVR rating.
Kent County’s high PVR scored farmlands are threaten with a bridge making a 12-mile commute from Kent County to the Baltimore Beltway a reality. In the short term the land consumed by the building of access roads is the threat, but in the long term indirect and cumulative impacts would accelerate valuable farmland loss.
The format for the meeting is designed to minimize community activism and public debate. Instead of using a traditional formal presentation followed by open mike, question and answer format, MDTA staff will sit at tables around the room and individuals will approach alone or in small groups to present comments or ask questions.
To counter this attempt to diffuse discussion, KCPA will make a presentation directly to the MDTA representatives at 6:30. Our attorney, John Murphy, will use maps created by Washington College GIS to illustrate our position that, according to statute, MDTA must fully consider Prime Farmland, Permanently Preserved Farmland Easements, Soils of Statewide Importance and Historic Resources in making its decision to site a third span.
MDTA has pledged to post meeting materials on its website in advance of Thursday’s meeting and KCPA will share that information on our website as soon as it is available. We will provide handouts at the meeting to explain the purpose and need statement and screening process to facilitate questions and comments. Participants can also pick up a No Bay Bridge to Kent yard sign.
Public engagement in the Tier 1 EIS study for the Chesapeake Bay Crossing is one of the few tools we have to influence the outcome of MDTA’s corridor designation. We encourage you to be part of that process and bring your friends to signal to MdTA of Community-wide concerns.
Whether or not you attend, please plan to send written comments following the meeting as community input is vital in the process.
Small businesses are leading the way to revitalize America . . . But small businesses can’t do their important work without the support of the community they call home.
~ Quint Studer, Strong Towns
There is nothing Baltimore or any urban area has that Kent County can’t create. This is already a place where people want to live and build a home for themselves and their families and enjoy the quieter lifestyle. The struggle comes in trying to make that happen when not finding the jobs or the support needed.
Instead of building a bridge to more jobs and opportunities we can build these opportunities here by expanding on what we already have and by supporting our local small businesses. We can do that in a number of ways by creating friendly regulatory environment, a strong entrepreneurial support system, access to capital, a culture of community support, and a commitment to promoting innovation and startups that would attract more businesses to relocate to KC.
Most of these we already have in place. I can think of a few businesses in Chestertown that got their start at the Farmers’ Market. By giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their goods in a low risk environment, they can build their clientele, hone their craft, and through success they can expand their business and create jobs through the strength of community support.
Where we lack in local business development is access to employee talent and support for minority entrepreneurs, but that can be fixed by offering more jobs training, and continuing to strengthen our local education system, some of which is already being done. There are a great number of local nonprofits that are working to help kids in after school programs, or help adults with their resumes. All we need is to promote and help expand these systems to activate the portions of KC that are underutilized.
As Chuck Marhon from Strong Towns argues, “the most successful communities are the ones that make the maximum use of their strengths while remaining nimble enough to react to a fast-changing, global economy. Today towns build massive amounts of infrastructure to induce new development. They do this while their existing infrastructure is underutilized and deteriorating. The current mindset also leads towns to seek the big payoff . . . Towns are ever tempted to tie their future to a big entity, diminishing their ability to change and respond to the market.”
The argument has been made that a bay bridge span from Baltimore to Kent County would create the economic development this area needs and has needed for some time. But the earliest a third bay bridge could be completed is 10 -12 years. Not only does Kent County need help now, we have all the tools required, and we can do it better.
Colin Campbell, a contact reporter for the Baltimore Sun, posted an in depth article on the current status of the proposed Bay Crossing on March 18, 2018. He includes numerous interviews with residents on both sides of the Bay. He presents pros and cons as seen by farmers, business people, community activists, public officials, commuters using the bridge and people affected by the current bridge traffic. The article reveals the multi depths of the issue and re enforces the reality of the difficulty in finding a balance between No Bridge and where one might be located.