To the Editor:
I do a double-take every time I pass it on Main Street. To my eyes, Southwest Harbor has just experienced a dramatic step towards urbanization with the creation of a major asphalt parking lot near the center of town. Southwest Harbor residents can legitimately sing the song lyrics “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot!”
But who is “they”?
After a town allows paving paradise and tree deforestation, people might later wake up and notice that what they love is missing, and regret not having acted to regulate land use with green development rules.
I suggest that now is the time to put green land use rules in place to avoid regrets. This has already been done in cities and towns all over the country and is not hard to do.
Philadelphia, for example, has had for decades, a law for higher property tax or utility rates to owners of parcels that have a high percentage of pavement or other hard surfaces.
Why? Because, first, these hard surfaces are not permeable and so rainwater is an issue. Second, the surfaces contribute to overheating the air by absorbing solar heat all day and releasing it at night, or reflecting it back by day. This is a major reason why cities have higher temperatures than surrounding areas. Yes, we are talking climate change impact, both local and global, and every little bit matters.
The thought of a bigger tax bill creates the incentive for all property owners to “green up” their property with trees, grass, and permeable paving to qualify for the lower tax rate and save money.
Also, because trees are good, the deforestation of many acres of Southwest Harbor woodland (check Google Earth) may also be considered as a public impact. Maine has excellent forest management and development guidelines for towns to consider.
The way it works is if a particular property has a lot of pavement and buildings then the tax rate for that property is higher. This is easy for a town to implement because today it’s easy to measure the square feet of green vs hard surfaces on every tax parcel. If not green enough by percentage then the higher rate is applied and shows up in the property tax bill.
Ready? Southwest Harbor voters can use their power to make this specific change to land use regulation by having a higher tax rate for un-green development. Let’s do this now and avoid singing “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
This is Acadia; isn’t it all about the preservation of nature?