Gaynors weren't told of land trust options In the Anne...

Letters to the editor

August 04, 2002

Gaynors weren't told of land trust options

In the Anne Arundel section dated July 23 there was an article written by Andrea Siegel about a Maryland Court decision denying an Elkridge couple their claim against the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) regarding an easement on their property.

What this case is really about is the fact that it appears that MET did not fully disclose to the Gaynors their complete list of options when the agreement was entered into in 1989.

Voluntary land easements, where a landowner voluntarily gives up development rights in exchange for tax breaks, are a legitimate way for government-based and non-profit land trusts to keep land from being developed; IF in doing so there is full disclosure by the land trusts of all the easement options available to the landowner.

The Maryland Environmental Trust is a governmental agency that receives state funding; and they should be required to sit down with the landowner, who is usually uninformed of such dealings, and spell out all the options available.

Land easements are a commitment on the part of a landowner to forgo future financial gain in lieu of receiving a tax break to keep their land from being developed in perpetuity.

In the process, the owners have the right to be made aware of what they can reserve and the financial consequences of their options.

More importantly, it seems to me, the land trust organizations have a moral obligation (if not a legal one) to point out these things to the landowner.

That is the least they can do and the right thing to do to ensure that the landowner who is contemplating giving away their rights forever does so with a full and complete understanding of the consequences.

Perhaps the court was right when it denied the Gaynors' claim. But the real tragedy here, as stated by the Gaynors to the court, is that had the Maryland Environmental Trust been above board and forthright in the beginning the case would not have even come to litigation.

In these days and times, when distrust of corporate and governmental activities abounds, perhaps a partial solution to such distrust would be for these entities to be more forthright and above board in their dealings.

Land trusts, especially those affiliated with a governmental entity, have an obligation to perform their functions in a responsible manner; and the state's executive and legislative leaders should take steps to ensure that happens.

Jim Mallow

Tracy's Landing

Slots at the track are a losing bet

I hope Vicki Smith follows up on her West Virginia slots article (July 28) and focuses more on the problems. For example, West Virginia has one of the "premier" gambling addiction hotlines.

But it only offers a two-hour face-to-face assessment, leaving the addicts to pay for their own treatment.

Montana's legislative gambling study found that treating just 6 percent of its pathological gamblers would cost the state $560,000 annually. And West Virginia promised its citizens "just a few slots at racetracks," but as noted in the article, "the [lottery] commission is now just a rubber stamp for the track owners." There are also slots in bars now.

And the recent letter "Bring slots' proceeds home to Maryland" (June 28) shows why there should not be a slots referendum -- people just don't understand the issue. The writer "cannot understand" why there is opposition to slots, and he feels the rewards outweigh the drawbacks.

With research he would know without question that slots are fiscally irresponsible.

"Casinos, Crime and Community Costs" by three University of Illinois economists presents irrefutable proof that it conservatively costs a state $1.90 in social costs for each gambling dollar earned.

It also shows that crime goes up three to four years after casinos come to town -- coinciding with slots addiction.

Yes, "gambling establishments" have great security, but studies show that "counties with casinos (slots at tracks = casino) face an eight percent higher crime rate."

Regarding jobs: It takes nearly 23 compulsive gamblers (i.e., destroyed families) to support just one casino job and, according to the Montana study, many are part-time positions that average less than $10,000 a year.

Also slots are the next "tobacco" for lawsuits.

I've never fought this issue on morals, but on solid research of economics, crime and addiction. No amount of revenue is worth destroying our citizens! I just wonder why the slots proponents didn't introduce educational funding bills when we had a surplus?

Kimberly S. Roman

Glen Burnie

The writer is co-chairwoman of NOcasiNO-Maryland.

Get illegal guns off our streets

With the violence in the streets in Baltimore (and in Annapolis too), our Lt. Governor and her administration claim that they have done a lot for gun control in Maryland and for HOT SPOTS neighborhoods.

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