Promoting sustainability

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By Tommy Foster
Fx2 Farm
Bedford County

    As to the Board of Supervisors and Planning meeting on Feb. 11 which I attended and spoke briefly, I offer the following written clarification and re-statement:
    My brother and I now raise grass fed beef (for local sale and consumption) in a low profile and natural way, and we are sandwiched between three districts: Blue Ridge, Thaxton, and Chamblissburg. We are farming the same land that our great grandfather farmed in 1906 and before; we are doing largely the same thing: subsistence living. There is nothing ignoble, immoral or undignified with living on the land and having minimal needs and minimal comforts.
    Several fundamental problems are presented by the concept of up-zoning as is now on the table. By the way, I do align myself with the Bedford Above Board group although I have not met with any of them nor participated in their efforts. The summary given at the hearing on 11 Feb. from the dais was one of patches and hodge podge in that no central theme around which the changes envisioned can be thought to have been developed.
     Without such a theme we hear a collection of random policies: private roads to enclaves on farm lands, 10 story buildings, small stores the size of motor homes on corners and rural roadways, home-based businesses with employees running in and out all day and so on and on. And then there is the un-digested re-absorption of the town or city of Bedford into the county (that is a bankruptcy case ripe for a cash infusion from the county).
    The impetus of much of the citizen presentation was that of rah-rah: let’s let freedom ring and jobs will be created ex nihilo; housing built, and prosperity will reign for all if we just cut loose the zoning. Never mind that we are in the midst of a world-wide re-ordering of the economic pecking order.
    In contrast, the notion of sustainability is what I want to promote: that means keeping those parts of tradition and the past that work well and embracing practices that allow us to pay our bills, live more simply and be less stressed over the need to acquire more and more credit based debt so that the demands on our resources are inelastic. What is needed is discussion of how we can hold our own in this county and take care of the needs, obligations, and contingencies of our citizenry: All this without the ambition that our direction is simply to increase the perception of more wealth and progress in the name of painful decisions.
    We should rather be taking a careful inventory of what benefits we enjoy here and how to extend those to our citizenry without financing our happiness by selling off acre parcels to those who are seeking to relocate without willingness to pony up the sums that the heritage of this county deserves. Sustainability for all includes professionals, trades people, service providers, merchants, educators etc.
    In view of the world wide economic re-tooling, it is too early to say whether any action of a local body will much change the economic plight of its citizenry but the vacuum created by an up-zoning that permits up to 50,000 new housing units seems to issue in a sucking sound that tends to dilute the dignity that has been a part of this county for much of its history. The money made will overwhelmingly be made not by existing property owners but by dealers living on luxury yachts in the Caribbean who will arrange the financing etc.
    The sustainability of which I speak is one of how to define our laws and rules to maximize longevity of the lifestyles that most folks say they want (and are working for). It seems that for many of the voices I heard that the notion of fewer rules is the avenue to a better society and a cure for the current ills. My view is that such is myopic in that complicated and obfuscated rules do motivate that posture but it is better rules and better zoning definitions that will promote a better society. Those better rules are hard to come by without an overarching central theme: my suggestion is to focus on defining sustainability rather that rushing to embrace false prosperity (sold to us many times before).