A Word of Warning on County Council Candidate Jim Luff  by Jay Falstad

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All elections are important but local elections especially so, because they affect our everyday living. The upcoming primary election involving Mr. Jim Luff should be considered as one of Kent County’s highest priorities and Mr. Luff’s candidacy, I believe, should be viewed with a dim eye.  I don’t have anything against Mr. Luff personally, and I’m sure he’s a decent enough guy, but his policy ideas, especially on land use issues are simply out of whack for the rural areas of the Upper Eastern Shore.

Being involved for nearly twenty  years in Queen Anne’s County on land use and political matters, I have seen Mr. Luff’s positions up close. Over the years, Mr. Luff has advocated for the sorts of development proposals that gladly invite uncontrolled development of the type that leads to school overcrowding, congested roadways, and general environmental degradation. His ideas could prove to be ruinous to Kent County’s sense of place, close-knit communities and agricultural landscapes.

His track record speaks for itself. Over the years, he is on public record numerous times as being strongly supportive of the massive 1,100 unit Four Seasons project on Kent Island, the largest subdivision in Maryland Critical Area history. This project on the banks of the Chester River that has been fiercely opposed by local residents, and a project where the developer has already been cited for major environmental violations before they have succeeded in constructing even a single dwelling!

In 2010, Mr. Luff publicly testified in favor of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (also known as FASTC) in Ruthsburg – a proposed Federal project near Tuckahoe State park (it was referred to as Little Aberdeen by locals in the area) that would have devastated nearby family farms and upended an entire agricultural community with near-daily explosive detonations, automatic rifle-fire, high-speed auto exercises, and much more.

During the Queen Anne’s County Comprehensive Plan review (where I served on the Citizens Advisory Committee), it was Mr. Luff who advanced and advocated for a giant industrial park near preserved agricultural land in an area of northern Queen Anne’s County that had no water or sewer service, and in an area where nearby landowners didn’t want an industrial park. Mr. Luff’s proposal was so outlandish, it was dismissed early in the Planning review process.

In 2011, Mr. Luff advocated for weakening the Queen Anne’s County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) to allow developers to proceed freely with construction projects despite their negative impacts to school crowding and traffic congestion, and thus, throw open the doors to development like you’d see in Glen Burnie.

Fortunately, citizen-sponsored referendums prevented Mr. Luff’s policy views from being implemented. Under the influence of powerful developers—and before that, through the McCrone Company where he worked—it was Mr. Luff who routinely favored development projects at the expense of everything else, including the quality of life of existing residents.

Last year, Mr. Luff invited the mayor of Middletown, Delaware to a Kent County Economic Development Commission meeting, and praised Middletown as an example of what good development could be. Is he serious??? Is Middletown what Mr. Luff envisions for small towns in Kent County such as Chestertown, Galena or Millington?

In short, there isn’t a development project that Mr. Luff hasn’t supported. Big box stores and overcrowded schools are fine by him, and so long as development is defined as “jobs,” Mr. Luff will likely favor it regardless of how it impacts a community.  Please do your research. Google “Jim Luff, Queen Anne’s County”— scroll through the stories and you’ll get a glimpse of his radical pro-development views.

If you like the look of uncontrolled development like that on Kent Island or in Middletown, then Jim Luff is your type of candidate…But, if you think Kent County, with all of its unique character, its small towns, its vast open areas of fields and forests are worth protecting, preserving, and celebrating, I urge you to consider someone else.


Jay Falstad owns Calico Fields Lavender farm in Queen Anne’s County and is the Executive Director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association.

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. Phil Ticknor says:

    I’ll take my chances with Jim rather than our county going broke, which is where we are headed. I wish “overcrowded” schools was our problem with our school system instead of closing them.

    As far as inviting Middletown leadership to our county, I believe there is good and bad to be learned. While Middletown has bloated and we shouldn’t strive to completely emulate anyone, it also does have a thriving small business scene even in spite of its big box explosion.

    If Mr. Luff takes office and gets us out of our stagnation in this county and then doesn’t pump the brakes when he should, we can then vote him out as well.

    • Deirdre LaMotte says:

      Sorry, but once the land is paved over there is no going back. Middletown is an ugly eyesore on top of some of the
      finest soil on the DelMarVa peninsula. There is growth that bring jobs that
      complement an area, that maintain the essence and character of the area. Then there is Kent Island and Middletown.
      You know, the no-zoning look.

      I always wonder the motivation behind people backing unchecked clutter. Dollars under the table??

    • Brakes are not needed for properly executed and well thought out development nor can those brakes be “pumped” once poor developments have been set in motion.

      Developers design projects to maximize their profit. Local governing bodies need to work in partnership with constituents to make sure those profits are not funded by the community nor built at the expense of the environment, or quality of life. Blind allegiance by elected officials to economic development dogma leads to poor decisions and development disasters that continue to impact communities and the environment far into the future.

      Taking the time and having the temperament to optimize outcomes upfront beats trying to mitigate post facto.

  2. Francoise Sullivan says:

    Voters should also be aware of our incumbents track records as well, for instance –

    County Commissioner Ron Fithian – from a 2013 Spy article –
    “Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian believes slow growth has not been the fault of county government, which has tried to bring businesses in. Fithian said that it was mostly residents who have been responsible for stagnant growth in Kent County. He noted attempts by the county to bring in an airport, a Walmart, a convention center, and a golf course.”
    https://chestertownspy.org/2013/04/11/kent-housing-recover-slowest-on-shore-resistance-to-growth-a-factor/

    Active, engaged citizens can make a difference!

  3. Speak for yourself. Managed growth is something we desperately need in Kent County. We don’t have a problem with over-crowding of anything, in fact, it’s quite the opposite here in Kent County. Our population is shrinking and we are suffering because of it. We need growth, in moderation of course, but a total non-growth agenda of the past is what has gotten us into the pickle we’re in today. This response should not be an endorsement of any candidate, but in defense of a candidate for speaking his mind on issues that may differ from your own.

  4. Jim Luff says:

    Jay Falstad is right! The projects I supported in Queen Anne’s are not right for the upper Eastern Shore, especially Kent County, but I stand by the decisions I made in my roles as a citizen volunteer. Generally, I would not respond to these types of comments. However, knowing Mr. Falstad’s track record for publishing bits and pieces of information to justify his position, just prior to an election, I feel compelled to respond.

    First, let us set the record in that Mr. Falstad is the executive director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association. This is a paid position and he earns his money by gathering a coterie of people to work against projects he and his board of directors deem wrong for Queen Anne’s County. Mr. Falstad goes to public meetings and speaks against a project as the titular head of the QACA. During my residency in Queen Anne’s County from 2004 to 2011 I was a community volunteer working as a member of the QAC Chamber of Commerce board and the QAC Economic Development Commission, which is an advisory group appointed by and for the QAC County Commissioners. It is an unpaid position. My speaking in favor of a project was based on the consideration of the particular board I was a member of, and after due discussion. I never took it upon myself to presume to speak for a board or commission without the organization’s approval of support for that project.

    Now, let us look at the projects he has listed. Four Seasons on Kent Island. This project was in conformance with local and state regulations or it would not have gotten approval. The location on Kent Island is a designated growth area. A growth area that was established through a process of citizen input. This project would have brought millions of dollars of much-needed infrastructure improvements for Kent Island and Queen Anne’s County. Being an age restricted, active adult community it would not put more students in the schools. All you have to do is review the Developers Responsibility and Requirements document, which was done in 1998, for confirmation.

    FASTC in Ruthsburg was a project by the United States State Department. Again, the QAC Economic Development Commission reviewed all of the information supplied in their conceptual plans. The commission felt that the economic benefits and job creation was significant. Consequently, the commission supported the proposal. The local citizenry thought differently of this facility and made their voices heard and the project was defeated. That’s how democracy works, last time I checked.

    I served on the economic development sub-committee to the Citizens Advisory Committee for the QAC Comprehensive Plan to examine the expansion of Chesapeake College and the establishment of a eco-business campus across Rte. 50. The farm owner offered to put in all of the infrastructure necessary for this proposed business campus. Mr. Falstad, while employed by the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, and serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee, chose not to incorporate it into the comprehensive plan.

    Mr. Falstad is categorically wrong when he opines that I was under the influence of powerful developers. He is also wrong on the time of my working for McCrone, Inc. For the record, I worked for McCrone until 1991, as manager of the Chestertown office. I returned to McCrone from 2000 to 2005 in their Annapolis office. I have been involved in land development my entire working career. I now have my own land use consulting firm, James M. Luff Consulting. What is a land use consultant? I assist property owners with understanding zoning regulations and ordinances and help them determine what they can legally do with their property. Are they in the critical area; or a flood plan? Do they have non-tidal wetlands, or are there zoning restrictions? My job is to help property owners understand not only their rights but most importantly their responsibilities.

    Lastly, the Kent County EDC invited the Middletown Mayor to get an idea of what Middletown did successfully to attract business. The mayor knew, as the EDC did, that we did not want Kent County to look like Middletown. What he left us with was a five-step program that puts development in the correct areas with the correct infrastructure and community support. I do not advocate any place in Kent County becoming a Middletown, but I do believe we can learn a great deal from them. Both what to do and what not to do. It’s just as important to study what you want to become as what you don’t want to become.

    Mr. Falstad’s assertions that uncontrolled development on Kent Island can even remotely be laid at my door is patently false.

    There is a lot of development I don’t support. I don’t support another Bay Bridge and all the growth that goes along with it. And I don’t support any part of Kent County becoming another Middletown. The Kent County EDC, of which I am a member, has worked very closely with the Planning Commission on the recently approved comprehensive plan, which protects agricultural land and puts development in or around the incorporated towns.

    Not everyone is going to agree on land use, that is why we have these processes, and why we put zoning in place, and why we have CAC’s. It gives us all a chance to come around the table and discuss all the varying degrees of ideas and plans. What was appropriate development for one location is not always appropriate development for another location.

    Let’s work together to protect our way of life and our beautiful county, while providing for our future!

    • Gren Whitman says:

      Sorry, Mr. Luff, you lost me at “coterie.”
      I’m pleased you took the time to respond to Mr. Falstad’s remarks, but I think you just dug your hole considerably deeper.

    • Janet Christensen-Lewis says:

      Let me see if I understand. You supported the projects outlined by Jay in his op ed, but are sorry since they were all wrong, however you stand by the decisions you made (to support them), because the advisory boards that you served on made you do it and besides that Jay is mean, was paid a salary and you got nothing.

  5. Gren Whitman says:

    Kent County Democrats unhappy with our two incumbent Dem county commissioners are being forced to consider the GOP’s offerings.
    This is a terribly unhappy position in which to find ourselves, but the underfunded school budget is a watershed moment.
    I (for one) may find myself voting for one GOP candidate, maybe two.
    Indeed, it’s coming to that for this generic Democrat, whose first proud vote was for Jack Kennedy!
    I certainly don’t want anyone who supports rampant development to be a Kent County commissioner!
    Thank you, Jay Falstad, for alerting us to Mr. Luff’s “track record.”

  6. Carla Massoni says:

    I would suggest our committed land preservationists meet with candidates to “put them on the record” concerning their views on development. The leadership these groups have shown with discouraging inappropriate development projects could be put to good use fashioning a serious economic development plan that would move Kent Forward. Ask the candidates where they stand on fully funding our schools too. You won’t get one without the other. Our current commissioners are proud of paving county roads – I would hope anyone running would be equally proud of committing to our children’s needs too.

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