Howard County Maryland Blog

Convention of States in Maryland

Reactions and Attacks – Merdon’s Green Plan

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The articles regarding Merdon’s announced Green Plan can be found in both The Sun and The Examiner

Angela Beltram, leader of a citizens group angry about development in Merdon’s Ellicott City council district, said she favors tighter restrictions on so-called infill development.  “They ought to just change the infill law,” she said, adding, “I’m not sure we should use preservation money to do it.”

I would be interested in what Angie has in mind.  I am cautious though.  In my neighborhood many people purchased double lots when my development was built 45 years ago as an investment for retirement.  Can you imagine telling them that they can sell or develop that lot today?

Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, liked the idea of preserving suburban lots but said it might “be a pretty hard sell to put agricultural money in a residential area.”

Marsha McLaughlin, county planning director, said, “The concept of adding green space in existing neighborhoods is a good idea,”

Gary J. Arthur, county recreation and parks director, said the county now plants about 7,000 trees a year and might have trouble finding contractors to plant 50,000. He said the county would like to have more small neighborhood parks,

Public Works Director James Irvin said the county has never looked at buying alternative-fuel vehicles.  Initiatives such as the push to use biodiesel fuel and the harnessing of the landfill gases have been considered before and were not cost effective at the time, said Jim Irvin, director of the county’s Department of Public Works.  However, the moves are “worth a look again,” Irvin said.

I am confused.  Either you looked at alternative-fuels or not.  Biodiesel is a fuel alternative for vehicles and heating oil.  Which is it?  Worth looking at again?  You bet it is given the price of oil and our increasing dependence on foreign markets.

From the competing campaigns.

C. Stephen Wallis, the independent candidate for executive, denounced campaign proposals from Republicans and Democrats as “idle rhetoric.” “Certainly the public sees the dis-ingenuousness of these tactics,” he said. “It’s insulting to the public.” Wallis suggested that buying suburban lots to remove them from development could put even more pressure for housing in the rural west. Converting methane gas to electricity may not be practical, he said. As for planting 50,000 trees, he said, “I can’t imagine doing it that fast. Saving older trees might be a better tack, he said. Wallis’ campaign manager Tom Snyder said his camp was working on their own environmental initiatives, which would be released soon.

Uh huh.  Mr. Wallis do you expect your proposals to be treated as “idle rhetoric”  Do you thing the public will be insulted when you announce your campaign proposal for the environment?

Ken Ulman, the Democratic candidate for executive, said Merdon’s suggestions come “after eight years of ignoring the environment.”  Merdon was one of two council Republicans who opposed Ulman’s 2003 bill to have the county pay up to 5 percent more to buy recycled paper products, Ulman said.  “I’m glad with 50 days left on his time in the County Council he finally proposed something positive on infill development. It’s about time he’s taken notice.”  “Some of them aren’t bad ideas, but voters see through this election-year posturing,” he said.

The difference between Mr. Merdon’s election year proposals and Mr. Ulman’s is that Mr. Merdon’s really mean something concrete.  They are not window dressing or lipstick on a pig.  Mr. Ulman has the fortetude to admit that they “aren’t bad ideas”.

Anyway, NOW is the time for Merdon, Ulman and Wallis to stand up and tell us what their vision is for Howard County.  NOW is the time for them to differentiate themselves from one another.  I don’t want to wait until after November 7th and find out that the other candidate had better ideas.  I think it is disingenuous to suggest that these candidates keep their ideas to themselves.

To attack Merdon as being dis-ingenious is not fair.  How does Wallis get off by saying Merdon doesn’t mean what he says.  I haven’t heard Merdon say a negative thing about Wallis, Dunbar, or Ulman so why is Wallis going off on Merdon now. 

As to Ulman’s comments.  “Ignoring the environment” ???  Ken, other than your paper proposal what have you done?  The same as Merdon – breathed the same air, sent you kids to the same parks, drove the same streets.  We are all concerned about the environment.  This isn’t about paper products.  This is about renewable sources of energy, reforesting, and preserving more green space.  We are all concerned about the environment and I am glad Merdon stepped forward with a viable and realistic plan.  I am looking forward to seeing Mr. Wallis’ plan.


5 Responses to “Reactions and Attacks – Merdon’s Green Plan”

  1. Mary Catherine said

    I think that anyone who is thinking about preserving the integrity of older neighborhoods should be encouraged. The Ag money is currently used for easements, which means that owners still retain the land but that the county or the state buys the development rights. The owners opt in. Buying property in fee simple for Parks is a nice idea and we certainly could use more green space… but its an expensive option. So investigating whether easements might work for those smaller lots via a Program Open Space type vehicle is worth the study. I’d love the first step that every politician makes in this direction is a pledge to not raid Program Open Space funding for other uses as it has been done in the past.

    And Angie has a good point. Legislating infill does not have to mean disallowing folks to build on an adjoining or double lot… it does mean that construction should fit the character of the existing neighborhood… that mega homes can not be squeezed onto tiny lots. I heard tell of a very nice home in Dalton that sold recently… new roof… well kept and in good shape for somewhere in the high 400s… that was torn down to make way for new construction… it is the way of the future and we need to prepare for it.

    I hesitate at preserving small residential parcels at the point where we are expending Ag funds for parkland acquistion because I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet for Ag easements for two very big reasons.

    1. Doughoregan Manor
    2. The UM Ag Farm on Folly Quarter

    Let’s not drain or draw down on any funds that could be used to protect these two big chunks of Ag land. And now that we have upped the price for easements… let’s give it a chance to work. Agriculture is part of living in a sustainable community.

    As a matter of fact…. why doesn’t every candidate, including the ones for Governor take a pledge to strongly encourage the UM to put an easement on its farm here in Howard County? It should be a no brainer… that the State should take the lead in promoting Ag pres here in Howard County, as a way to reinforce their commitment to Agriculture … but oddly… everyone ducks when the question is asked.

    I don’t know why… but its a balloon we keep floating- and have since at least 1999, and yet no progress.

  2. Don M said

    Continuous land areas for farming are what help keep agriculture going in Howard County. Whenever I drive down 108 from 29 to 175, I always slow down and think about another of the UM’s satellite farms. The old UM horse farm where students used to stay up all night long for mare watch class and a few of the lucky ones got to help with a foaling.

    Sadly the farm is now somewhere under or near Snowden River Parkway and Rt 100. So what then becomes one of the largest ag industries in Howard County in the late 1990’s? Horses.

    The University has finally figured out how important horses are to MD’s ag economy and is enhancing its equine program.


    Get a first hand look at the upcoming open house

  3. hocomd said


    Thanks I appreciate your prespective. How was the party?


  4. timactual said

    “Mr. Merdon’s really mean something concrete. They are not window dressing or lipstick on a pig.”

    Wouldn’t they have been at least as concrete a year ago? Or two years ago? Any promise or program unveiled close to an election can justifiably be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism.

    As far as getting methane from the landfill, there have been several proposals for using the landfill property, all of which were strongly opposed and defeated by local residents. I doubt if generating methane will be any more successful.

  5. treehugger said

    Mary Catherine I believe strongly with your comments about the candidates running for Governor letting there beliefs on the issues about the environment be known. I do have a problem with many of these so called environmental groups endorsements because it is so party sponsored. I look at the Governor’s record with the Bay Restoration Act, the most progressive law in the United States to clean water and to me that seems like the actions of an Environmental Governor.I think that Mr. Merdon’s statements also shows his education on the issues and he seems to have an understanding of what local government can do.

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