Aug 9, 2010

The Landed Gentry

One of the popular misconceptions in our granola society is that our open space is threatened. Consequently, in addition to welfare and corporate welfare, we now have landed gentry welfare. We purchase land, at almost market value, and even allow the owner to keep it. Although there is a deed restriction prohibiting development, who can guarantee it will be enforced in future generations? In every case I'm personally familiar with, the owner never had any intention of development; In one instance, the owners were compensated over $1million.

In some cases the owners are working farmers, in many, just gentlemen farmers with country homes. An article in Sunday's Morning Call laments the reduction in the farmland preservation funds. Nothing in the land preservation compensation really guarantees continued farming, that would be somewhere between indentured servitude and slavery. In 2006, Pennsylvania spent $102 million in Growing Greener handouts. Although the program has been cut back in recent years, there is a long list of applicants hoping to get some of this handout. The granola eaters should drive across Pennsylvania. There is a lot of open space even in this heavily populated state, over 8 million farm acres. While we close mental hospitals and sell nursing homes, we pay yuppies playing weekend farmer, development rights on land they never intended on subdividing anyway.


Andrew Kleiner said...

First, granola is delicious.

Second, I believe that open space is in fact threatened. I also believe that making sure farmland that may or may not currently be used for farming gets preserved should simply guarantee that large, undeveloped acreage, stays undeveloped.

That is, permanent ordinances should be in place to keep swaths of McMansions from popping up on current areas of open land.

It isn't just farmland preservation that is taking a cut here in PA - the new budget takes a lot of money away from state environmental programs, and it is really sad to see.

In an era of rabid suburban development, of plastic houses designed with planned obsolescence as guiding principle - preserving open space is all the more important.

Preserving open space should guarantee the preservation of local ecosystems and in turn, allow land trusts, conservancies, college science departments, etc.. to facilitate ecological restoration.

Maybe with an only granola diner? I'm in.

monkey momma said...

I'll add three points:

1. This is a question of priorities. Is it really more important to fund these preservation efforts than to assist the most helpless members of society? Sadly, this is another example of how gamming the system works for folks with means, and the losers are the most needy and defenseless people.

2. McMansions. Plastic houses. Planned obsolesence. That all sounds good, but let's acknowledge WHY these carbon copy homes have sprung up in the suburbs: the cities have let us down. I won't put my family in Allentown for 2 reasons - crime and the school system. In the absence of a city that can handle the needs of families like mine, we are forced to move to the suburbs. Granted, we love our neighbors and neighborhood, and it is a mini-city of its own now. In the mean time, well intentioned environmental advocates had best learn the reasons why folks are buying so-called McMansions - it's not all about greed. Not for me, at least. Believe me, we'd much rather live in a funky west-side home with some real character, but the down side of Allentown life is too much to bear. The economic reality of today is enough to deter unneeded homes from being contructed, but you can bet that the ones being built today will be inhabited very quickly by folks eager to leave the woes of city life behind. More power to the city dwellers, but it's too risky for us.

3. If corporate farming didn't have such a stranglehold on the American food supply our local farmers wouldn't need incentives to keep their land and farm it. But I suspect that situation will not change, at least, not in my lifetime.

In any event, this is a good case study in the priorities of our society, and it is quite sad.

(PS - I love granola.)

Anonymous said...

It's 11:03 AM.

Have you hugged a tree yet today, Mr. Molovinsky?


Anonymous said...

Monkey Momma said:

"If corporate farming didn't have such a stranglehold on the American food supply our local farmers wouldn't need incentives to keep their land and farm it."


We all love the local farm and the quaintness that goes with it, but few would want to live the life required to run a real farm.

I am very happy that I don't have to grow my own food and can go to the grocery store to buy food for my family. Still, I see no need for local land subsidies.

In the US, our agricultural output is enough to feed our people and the rest of the world. "Corporate farming" is largely responsible for that.

I see no need to bash "corporate farming". Doing so is truly biting the hand that feeds us.

gary ledebur said...

"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall grant a redemption of the land. If your brother becomes poor, and sells part of his property, then his next of kin shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no one to redeem it, and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, let him reckon the years since he sold it and pay back the overpayment to the man to whom he sold it; and he shall return to his property. But if he has not sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property." Leviticus 25: 23-34

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky,
What is the name of this castle

Anonymous said...


FYI, one of the WPA stone structures was just removed from Irving Park along Jerome Street.

There is now a patch of gravel where masonry steps once stood. I hope this is not planned for the other three staircases in the park.

Anonymous said...

The system is broken in the U.S. You could save all that farmland preservation money by just outlawing suburban development. Too bad the suburban developers have bought and sold all of our lawmakers. Plan B is farmland preservation funding.

You can blame Allentown for suburban development, but I blame the people who give up on the cities and leave. Fight for your neighborhoods and schools and you will see them improve.

Patrick McHenry said...

Anon said:

"Fight for your neighborhoods and schools and you will see them improve."


That's great but when you have an administration and council that fight citizen participation on any issue, the deck is stacked against you.

Until the voters of Allentown restore some balance to the political landscape and hold those who have overseen the demise of our city accountable, little will change.

Anonymous said...

Please look into those missing WPA steps. This is frightening. The wall and steps in Lehigh Parkway are falling apart Loose stones are on the ground, tempting to get tossed.
Remember, it's often cheaper to tear down than rebuild.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the WPA steps...if you look at what is happening at the top of these steps, it sure looks like drug deals. If I can see drug deals happening in the open, why can't the police. I talked to them about what I saw (I was cycling to the Parkway), and they didn't seem all that concerned.

If these steps would be repaired and people used them, it would be less likely that there would be nefarious activity on them.