…send letters to all affected property owners urging them to attend public hearing next week!
A bipartisan group of citizens of Washington County have organized to fight the Republican County Commissioners’ misguided and expensive proposal to build a 24-mile trail for recreational bikers, skate boarders and rollerbladers (other uses have not yet been defined) at a time that all agree calls for fiscal austerity measures by government at all levels, not grand spending schemes to benefit a select few.
The trail plan, the Commissioners say, is to promote healthy living at taxpayers’ expense (they are dreaming that the over $20 million price tag will be picked up by private donors). By the way, tell that healthy living theory to the recently fired school nurses or the family of Ita Lapina, an elderly Russian immigrant killed just this week by a speeding cyclist on a trail in Virginia.
Here (below) is what the homeowners, farm owners and taxpayers have said today in a letter sent to nearly 1000* affected property owners.
COME TO BOONSBORO MEETING ON THURSDAY JUNE 21, 7PM
Bicycle enthusiasts, with the support of Washington County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham, want to put a hiker-biker trail – likely paved – on the old B&O railway that cuts through farmland and next to homes. The trail would run from Hagerstown, through the prison, then on to Keedysville and all the way to Weverton.
This idea is a lot further along than you may think. The Commissioners decided to move forward on this back in February. In March, the Commissioners and the City of Hagerstown sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources asking for consideration and support of the project.
Proponents say the 24-mile long trail will cost “only” $16 million and that the state and federal government will pay for it. BUT other rail trails in this area have cost over $1 million a mile plus this trail has 24 bridges that have to be built that aren’t even in the estimate. This trail will cost over $30 million to build and the county will have to pay every year for the upkeep, probably about $500,000 a year.
The state and federal money will cover AT MOST only HALF of the cost to build it and NONE of the annual upkeep. The County will have to pay the rest. That is a minimum of $8 million from the County, if you believe the proponents, but more like $15 million or more from the County to build it, plus whatever it costs each year to maintain it.
But the County doesn’t even have the money to pay for school nurses and just laid off all 76 of them! Joe Kroboth, County Director of Public Works, said the County has a backlog of $50 million in road work and that backlog is getting bigger because the Commissioners can’t find enough money to fix the roads.
Plus there is the impact it would have on the property rights and lives of neighboring farmers and homeowners!
PLEASE VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION BY:
* Attending the public meeting on Thursday, June 21, 2012, 7:00 p.m., at the Boonsboro Volunteer Fire Company, 6 St. Paul Street, Boonsboro, Maryland. (Try to arrive early to sign up to speak and to assure you will have a seat).
* Emailing or calling the County Commissioners. 240 313 2200; firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Contacting your representatives –
- Sen. Chris Shank at Christopher.Shank@senate.state.md.us or (301) 733-5540
- Del. Neil Parrott at email@example.com or (240) 329-0293
- Del. Andrew Serafini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 733-5508
- Del. John Donoghue at email@example.com or (301) 790-3780
- Del. Leroy Myers at (240) 527-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Congressman Roscoe Bartlett at email@example.com or (301) 797-6043
* Mail Call at the Herald Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 791-6236, or write a letter to the editor.
Even if you are reading this after the June 21 meeting, please make the calls and send the emails in opposition! There are so many more concerns and problems with this proposal than we could fit in this letter!
If you have any questions or want more information, please contact your fellow neighbors Leslie Cruz (301-674-0088) or Bill Daly (301-432-4830) or e-mail at email@example.com.
Besides the cost to the County to build and maintain the trail, here are some other issues:
- This trail has already resulted in restrictions on property rights. DNR has refused to recognize full access rights and has restricted the use of property along the B&O line. Will the proponents of the trail stand up for property rights and insist that access rights be permanent, in writing, legally binding and without restriction?
- There are already miles and miles of hiking and biking trails in the County – 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail, 78 miles of the C&O Canal, 20 miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, 8 miles of trails on Antietam Battlefield, 8 miles of trails at Greenbrier Park and 196 miles of bike tours of the Convention and Visitors Bureau plus State-designated bike routes like Route 67, Route 65 and parts of Route 34.
- There will need to be facilities built such as parking lots for access and restrooms. Where will these be located and how much will they cost? Will homeowners be pressured to sell? Can their homes and land be taken by eminent domain by either the County or the State?
- One supposed justification is this trail will bring economic development. How many bikers will there need to be for the County to get the tax money to pay for building and maintaining the trail? Studies on nearby trails show that trail users spend on average less than $10 per trip and the County would get only a fraction of that in taxes to pay for the millions to build and maintain the trail. Any shortfall would have to be made up by tax increases or cuts in services to County residents. Plus, even proponents have said that there would be ZERO economic benefit south of the Town of Keedysville.
- The railbed runs just feet from people’s front doors in many communities. What provision will be made for privacy and security of those homeowners, and their continued enjoyment of their homes?
- What about property values, real estate taxes and homeowners insurance premiums?
- The Western Maryland Rail Trail is often cited as a reason why property owners should not be concerned, but that trail differs from the B&O line because the Western Trail mostly runs along the C&O Canal, instead of cutting through the middle of private property and residential communities.
- Will trail proponents commit to preventing attempts to impose “viewshed” restrictions (new zoning laws or other land use or property appearance restrictions) on the nearby properties?
- Commissioner Callaham suggested that businesses have advertisements along the trail to pay for it. How much money does she project that would raise? Would it be guaranteed each and every year or could the businesses back out and leave the bill with the County taxpayers?
- One estimate is that 135,000 people a year use the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Have road improvements and increased maintenance on the narrow County roads in South County been considered? What is the estimate of that cost and how would it be paid for when there is already a $50 million backlog in County road work?
Taxpayers and Homeowners for Common Sense, P.O. Box 2, Keedysville, MD 21756
* Most of this list was obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.