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BULLETIN: Cecil County Commish Vote to Spent $1.45M on McCoy Farm Preservation; Hodge, “Patriots” Oppose Deal

June 19, 2012
By Nancy Schwerzler

The Cecil County Commissioners voted to use county funds to purchase development rights on a large Rising Sun farm Tuesday, after several hours of often heated public comment led by members of the local tea party group that opposed giving taxpayer money to a landowner when there is no imminent threat of development of the property.

Advocates of farmland preservation, including former County Commissioner Phyllis Kilby, strongly supported the acquisition, which will be front-financed by the county government. (Kilby’s husband, Bill, heads the Cecil Land Trust that brokered the deal.) However, federal funds are expected to reimburse the county for about $720,000 of the cost, leaving the county paying a net cost of about $730,000.

Voting in favor of the purchase were the usual “Three Amigos” faction of the Cecil County Commissioners—Board President James Mullin (R-1) and Commissioners Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3). Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) abstained on the vote, saying she was “very concerned” that the property owner, Lowell McCoy, might not have seen the text of a contract between federal authorities and the Cecil Land Trust.

But Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) voted “no,” saying that while he generally supported the concept of farmland preservation, given the difficult economy it was not the top priority for expenditure of taxpayer funds at this time. He noted that a majority of the commissioners have recently refused to spend money on much-needed road repairs, school improvements and, in particular, “passed on the opportunity” to pursue a proposed purchase of the Basell property for a long-delayed new vo-tech school.

Hodge said there was “a big but here” and while farmland preservation is a laudable goal, this was not the time to spend county funds to do so for the McCoy property.

Members of the Cecil County Patriots, the local ‘tea party’ group, showed up in force to testify against the expenditure, with many taking a philosophical position that the government had no business interfering in the free market and claiming that the entire farmland preservation program was part of a broader, United Nations-endorsed “Agenda 21” to convert private property to government ownership and control.

But Ron Lobos, a member of the Patriots, took a more practical approach, saying that the real issue was giving taxpayer money to a “millionaire” private landowner, who would “take the money and run.” Lobos said it was “sheer lunacy” to give public funds to a private landowner when the public would have no rights of access to the preserved land.

Lobos held up a plastic pail, labeled “Lowell McCoy Fund,” and he asked people in the room to donate voluntarily if they wished to help preserve the McCoy farm. Late in the afternoon, he had collected less than a dollar from voluntary donations.

[CECIL TIMES will be publishing a detailed report on the McCoy farm issue soon. Commissioners debated the issue at a lengthy worksession Tuesday morning, and then held a long meeting in the afternoon on this and many other issues.]

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4 Responses to BULLETIN: Cecil County Commish Vote to Spent $1.45M on McCoy Farm Preservation; Hodge, “Patriots” Oppose Deal

  1. Millie LaCorte on June 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

    During the Public Comments, Diana Broomell chose to “speak out” when it was the citizens chance to speak. She said, and I paraphrase, that she was ashamed to have ever belonged to the Patriots. As a member of the Patriots, all I can say is I too am ashamed she was ever a member of the Patriots, and I was one of her strongest supporters. My sad mistake which I woefully regret.

    The precedent of this “preservation” means that a farmer cannot will his property to be divided equally among his children. Only one child can receive the inheritance to use the land. However, the Federal Government has written in the contract that the Secretary can decide to use the land as it sees fit. Shame on the Three Amigos for supporting government takeover of our land for no specific purpose other than a vague “preservation” intention when that rich, fertile land could be used to feed us, our children, and their livestock. The Deal stinketh of compost, mightily.

    • Ron Lobos on June 24, 2012 at 6:32 am

      Millie, I’m not sure Broomell was ever a Patriot. If you remember, she only attended about 2 or 3 meetings that were held at the church down near Milburn Orchards. She only attended during the months that she was running for Commish. Then she dropped off the face of the earth. I truly believe that she was just trying to court the Patriot vote.

      As you and I have both found out, she misrepresented herself in the name of getting elected. I, too, am ashamed that she would ever claim to have been a Patriot. Benedict Arnold was more of a Patriot.

  2. Broomless on June 20, 2012 at 10:28 am

    We’re talking the Cecil County Commissioers, where the majoriy drools.

  3. F Gaylord Moody III on June 21, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I oppose the recent purchase of development rights.

    I have opposed many aspects of the land reform movement over the years. I have been a critic of flaws in logic, presentation and conclusions in “white papers” that are cited in support of down zoning and TDR’s. I have been critic of the land purchases when public officials pay more than assessed values for recreation land as well as farm land. I have spoken at meetings when public officials seem ignorant that down zoning reduces the line of credit extended by banks to farmers. I did comment on aspects of the Comprehensive Plan during the appropriate public comment period.

    When a commissioner chides the public, as in the recent public comment period regarding a development right purchase, for waiting until a specific purchase before registering a protest, then that is an inaccurate and irrelevant criticism of the public. Is that elected official suggesting public opinion is limited to those special ceremonial moments of “speak now or forever hold your peace”? Does the commissioner suggest that no one has ever done a “redo” of prior commissioner decisions? Does the commissioner suggest that beneficial transactions can be executed if the program is faulty?

    I did email comments to the commissioners that I believe farmland preservation is a failed policy in many aspects, but particularly should not be financed in a manner that increases the settlement costs of real estate purchases.

    First, the taxes/ fees assessed in real estate closings amount to a redistribution of wealth from working class and middle class citizens to the large land owners. That is an example of allowing the levers of government to be used to benefit powerful individuals and corporate interests. As a government of “conservatives” becomes more autocratic and less protective of individuals, I view that as an example of “slouching toward fascism”.

    Second, the local officials continue to assess those taxes/ fees but have put the collected funds to general revenue. That is an example of misappropriation of funds, or collection of funds under a false pretense. My words may fail to be accurate or precise; but the practice does not pass the “smell test”. If the commissioners do not use the funds for designated purposes; they should eliminate the taxes/ fees collected at the real estate closing and increase the general tax assessments. Some fundamental honesty seems to suggest that. I am inclined to view that failure as a dishonesty and/ or an institutional corruption.

    Third, if the commissioners do not use taxes/ fees for the designated purpose; then my logic would suggest the funds already collected from those assessments may be allocated to the general operations of the county and not be restricted to the land preservation purchases. We see the state has reduced county support for recreational land purchases, and those funds are also collected in the real estate closings. I believe that indicates the state is using designated funds for general revenues, as well as releasing previously collected funds to general purposes. However, I have not traced those funds. Again, there is a stink.

    I encourage real estate professionals to attend the public meetings and hearing; they need to see how our officials use the funds collected in the real estate closing process.

    I do encourage people working in the real estate professions to become advocates of lower closing costs, even if the reductions are only the price of a “happy meal”.

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