The public hearing was held on March 3rd. The hearing record will remain open until March 13. It will be taken up in committee and apparently voted on sometime in the summer. Many of you have seen our outreach on this. This is a link which includes the video of the hearing (a must watch) and updated information including some compelling testimony in the record and the action platform.
The Reserve was well represented by a number of stakeholders at the public hearing who made a compelling case for the protection of farmland, the carbon sequestering power of the techniques being implemented currently and those that are being introduced, the significant role in resilience that the Reserve will provide in the decades to come.
Sadly, a strategy was employed by a number of industry representatives (not all) who sought to diminish the value of local farms and the public purpose of the Reserve. One industry rep declared - when afforded additional time to speak by Hans Riemer:
“I think you need to look at the particular land uses, not all forms of agriculture are climate beneficial. We have industrial agriculture; soybeans, corn, wheat, and sod. Those forms of agriculture take carbon out of the soil-ground, support animal agriculture which is harmful for the climate. Guess what the top four crops are in Montgomery County agriculture? Soybeans, corn, wheat, and sod. We also have hay which has certain ways which you can grow that-that has carbon benefits. So I would want to score and do mapping that looks at an acre by acre basis of the carbon benefits provided by that land and you can say that if this is corn and soybeans wouldn’t it be better for the climate if it was solar instead for example. To just assume that all land uses are beneficial is bad math.”
The industry executive continued the following day on social media:
"Taxpayers across the county pay for those easements (ag). They should provide real public benefit. Growing corn and soy beans for dog food is not a public benefit I want to finance. A reminder that our kids are learning in trailers because we don’t have enough tax revenue. Maybe we should keep the ag zoning but tax the land not used for public benefit."
I want to make this perfectly clear nothing - NOTHING - is gained by standing silently by as our farming colleagues are torn down this way. In fact, these words and those of others ZTA proponents who testified, and the striking silence from the council members present, are both chilling and deleterious. Take note, though mum after the industry rep’s assertions, councilmember Riemer took the time to chastise a climate change advocate after his testimony (see video) which opposed the ZTA and called for a comprehensive integrated science based plan to guide actions.
So what began as a hearing on the merits of a specific zoning text amendment emerged as challenge to the Reserve itself. The chief sponsor of the zoning text amendment, Riemer, has written in promotional material that the Reserve needs to step up and do its part. At the hearing a picture was painted of a desolate, carbon emitting, poorly utilized landscape benefitting few - whose true and highest public purpose would be energy generation. This left me to wonder whether we were really proposing partnership, as represented, or domination.
What do you say we send a message, many of us about what this place does - what you do because of it, what matters to you, what challenges do you have such as access to affordable land here and how getting this right matters? The action alert can be completely and quickly reworked as you choose. But the council needs to hear your stories - otherwise decisions will be made in isolation of fact.