National Geographic : 1976 Jul
think will be a crucial issue in the third century of our independence: To what extent can public authority tell a man what he can do or cannot do with his property? Consider this recent and typical news item: Walpole, New Hampshire-Voters will ex press their sentiments today on whether a 200-million-dollar pulp mill should be built on farmland along the Connecticut River. Critics claim it would bring sulfurous stench, strip forests, and ruin roads with heavy trucks. Proponents claim it would create jobs, keep young people from leaving, and boost the local economy and tax base.... Ah, taxes! Here's a L fruit of land use very and use much wanted by may and taxes ors and elected heads mean life of all our assorted lo mean life cal governments: some or deat3,000 counties, 18,000 for towns for towns municipalities, and 34,000 townships and school districts. Their taxes on real property, meaning land and so-called improvements on it, total 40 billion dollars a year. That's nearly a third of all the money those governments have to spend. Results from Walpole: 690 for the pulp mill, 866 against! The largest turnout of voters ever. The pulp people may try in the next county, or over in Vermont. My first whiff of land-use fervor had come one evening in Fairfax County, Virginia. The Board of Supervisors was considering Re zoning Application C-643: Shall 73 acres of undeveloped land be turned into an industrial park or developed for housing? And if so, how many units per acre? This sort of con frontation comes up in suburbia every day. Some citizens complain that they are taxed for sewers and roads so some developer can realize maximum profit; developers counter that they provide people with places to live. The landowner's attorney notes that a land-use plan of 1970 specified industrial use for the site-a major tax producer! But he'll be reasonable, and accept five homes to an acre. From the floor the arguments fly: "Dumping so many people there will bring traffic congestion, it'll ruin our nice neighborhood nearby. We must defend the quality of life!" "This could cost everybody hundreds of dollars each, for new access roads. The time of freewheeling development must end!" "But the man is entitled to a reasonable return. You can't dictate in a democracy!" A man gets up and says he's done some research: The original 114-acre tract was bought thirty years ago for $9,350. A power company paid $10,000 for a nine-acre ease ment in 1948. Five acres were sold a decade later for $45,500, then another 22 acres for $97,500. On an investment of less than $10,000, there had already been a return of $150,000. "What's left now, if sold in one acre lots, would bring $1,400,000! But no, the PATRICIACAULFIELD(FACINGPAGE) ANDMARTINROGERS SI..