Mission creep in preservation efforts.

Over at ramblings Bernie is writing a series on issues that arise when otherwise well intentioned open space preservation programs experience mission creep. Good stuff. Brings up lots of very good points.

“Northampton County’s Open Space program is designed for farmland preservation, environmentally sensitive land and municipal parks. Like kissing babies, it’s politically popular. In many instances, it is also the right thing to do. But there have been questionable decisions like the preservation of cliff lands and swamps that could never be developed…”

There are many reasons to preserve open space. The one I focus on and that you would think all should agree on regardless of political persuasion is keeping taxes low. Want to keep taxes low? Preserve farmland.

When a local program strays from a focus on the preservation of developable properties – preferably actively farmed since it’s a form of industrial infrastructure – there is potential for mis-use of public funds. The number one criteria should be preservation of developable land where otherwise low value land uses like warehouses could be built. In other words land uses that do not provide a net financial gain for localities and generate very few jobs/acre and low revenue/acre vs. the new taxpayer funded long-term municipal liabilities created.

Preservation of natural resources is also a worthy goal. But I’m convinced the priority for local municipalities should be developable properties and farmland since you can justify use of tax dollars with lifecycle cost analysis of farmland vs. the alternative. There are other programs and ways to preserve the natural resources.