Comments for Guilford County Legislators
February 26, 2009
Thank you, Rep. Jones and Guilford legislators, for providing citizens the opportunity to speak to you.
I am the fifth-generation owner/operator of a North Carolina Century Farm. There are three other working Century Farms in my immediate family, and I operate two of them as well.
Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler recently noted that agriculture and related businesses generate more than $70 billion to NC’s economy annually. NCSU economist Michael Walden stated that “it is a very consistent, stable part of our economy.” The ingenuity and adaptability of NC’s farmers should be applauded.
Sadly, NC leads the nation in the disappearance of farmland with over 600,000 acres lost the last five years. Farmland is our state’s most valuable, economic resource and our most important environmental purifier. Too often it is succumbing to ill-advised land use and transportation policies resulting from the undue influence of property developers, corporate interests, and the lack of transparency in land-use and transportation planning. Recklessly promoting development of our land described as “vacant” and “undeveloped” as the best means to achieve economic growth diminishes the public trust, threatens private property rights, and agricultural and environmental vitality.
Locally, Heart of the Triad (HOT) is a development plan promoted by special interests designed to reward governments and businesses. Claiming to reduce sprawl and congestion, its desired new highways called developmental corridors will only produce more of it. David Taylor of HDR Engineering that produced the Preferred Concept told me that “Farms were not an option” in HOT. How will HOT’s desired intense development possibly improve a non-attainment air quality status in the Triad and protect three watersheds while producing up to 5000 more acres of lost farmland?
The corporate alliance formed by Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) and local Chambers of Commerce that raised money from businesses interested in seeing this area develop separated residents from this process, subjected residents to the decisions of seven governments while being constituents of only one, and have disenfranchised HOT residents from local representative government.
Being only a concept, Heart of the Triad is not a place, project, or a legal entity. It has no money, no power, and no authority to do anything. Therefore, I request that you and the General Assembly deny funding for HOT and encourage local governments and residents to engage in transparent, ethical planning for the area. If the local governments were not willing to help fund HOT, why should state taxpayers fund it?
I also request that the General Assembly reform the statute, article 27, GS 160a that established PART and granted it the authority to perform regional land-use planning for economic development. This is an improper power to grant an unelected agency that is unaccountable to voters. PART would better serve the taxpayers of the Triad and state by focusing on efficient mass transportation solutions.
By using conservation planning methods to produce land-use and transportation plans, we can protect the sustainability of our agricultural economy and the environment and allow economic growth. Plans produced by local planning staffs with citizens’ input requiring elected officials to be held accountable to voters will enhance Commissioner Troxler’s efforts to preserve farmland with much less cost to taxpayers.
Protecting our natural assets will ensure that our legacy will be honored because of what we leave behind, and not vilified because of what we destroy.