Recalling Smith, and discussing her farm's fateI have...

LETTERS

March 30, 1997

Recalling Smith, and discussing her farm's fate

I have learned of the recent death of Elizabeth C. Smith of Blandair farm, Columbia.

We were friends for 29 years. I first met her in 1968 as a result of an article I wrote in the Constructive Conservative, praising the concept of the planned city of Columbia. She wrote to me asking if I would like some first-hand information; the picture was not as rosy as it might seem at first blush. I accepted the invitation, and she took me to visit several people who had been harmed by the shameful and unethical behavior of some of the developers and the Howard County Commission. She was paying their legal fees as they sought justice.

Soon, she would become involved in legal battles concerning her own property, which continue to this day. She wanted to leave her farm, with a substantial endowment to maintain it, to the public as a green space. She did not want it "developed" for any reason.

As she proceeded, it became clear to her that the developers and the Howard County commission had engaged in even more shameful and unethical behavior. Instead of planning to use land purchased for development from willing sellers for infrastructure such as roads, schools and other public purposes, the developers and the county commission deliberately planned to build those facilities on the land of those who wanted to continue to farm or who, like Miss Smith, wanted to preserve some green space for future generations.

If that were allowed to continue, Miss Smith reasoned, eventually there would be no farmland left between the East Coast and the Mississippi River.

A strong-minded individual, Miss Smith was a conservative in the most honorable of ways. She was an advocate of individual liberty and individual responsibility. She saw the individual as responsible for treating his neighbor fairly and for coming to his neighbor's aid when needed. As a farmer of 60 years, Miss Smith saw her role as a steward of the land. She engaged only in organic farming practices. Because of the development of neighboring land, her farm has become the last refuge for many wild creatures. She was happy to have them there. The legal documents to establish an endowed foundation to preserve her land in the way she wished were delivered to her the day before she died, but she died before signing them. Let us hope that Miss Smith's heirs will be as public-spirited as she.

Miss Smith gave generous financial support to various charitable, conservative and environmental causes throughout her life. The world is a richer place for her having lived. Those who have had her as a friend have been blessed. She is missed.

Byron C. Hall Jr.

Centerville, Ohio

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Your article of March 4, "Panel Meets to Help Save Key Farmland," regrettably suggests that those participating state and local officials are pointed 180 degrees from the best solution for the Smith farm, and from the governor's initiative of "smart growth." The Smith farm's central location and essential characteristics demand careful development.

The property can very easily be connected to the adjacent villages' street systems and to the existing utilities infrastructure. Its prospective children can easily attend existing local schools, and the new neighborhood could easily be served by existing police, fire and rescue services. Two major public libraries are as accessible as Columbia's Town Center West and sprawling "Big Box" Town Center East.

Its closest major road, Route 175, presently operates with high efficiency, and functions in concert with Routes 108 and 100 to the north, and expanded Route 32 to the south.

If developed to Columbia's standards, at least 30 to 35 percent of the total acreage, or about 100 acres, could become an integral part of the existing open space system. With more than 3,800 acres of permanent open space, Columbia already provides Howard County's largest regional park within walking distance to thousands of residents.

Columbia in 1997 is home to thousands more trees than were on the land in 1963. The decision to preserve the Middle Patuxent Valley in the early 1970s resulted in one of the two most significant permanent wildlife preserves presently in Howard County, exclusive of Patapsco State Park.

The sustainable symbiotic relationship between man and nature in Columbia has been achieved under the guiding principles of intense capitalism. Even Jim Rouse, whose life accomplishments were recently applauded by virtually all, sought to develop the Smith farm.

It is time for state and local officials to cease their spewing of political populism, for knee-jerk environmentalists to discover the environment and for new town NIMBYs to form a task force to ensure the highest quality comprehensive development plan for the Smith farm, for the preservation of animal and human species. It is the "smart" thing to do.

Nicholas J. Mangraviti

Columbia

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