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Your land is not my land

Since leaving Thursday night’s meeting of the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission, the words to a song I learned in elementary school have been running through my head.
Most of you are probably familiar with it, one of Woody Guthrie’s most famous folk songs. The chorus starts out, ‘This land is your land, this land is my land.’
I never thought the song was implying that I had control over someone else’s property. I do believe, however, that people should be good stewards of all property, regardless of whose it is, but that doesn’t mean we can tell others what to do with their land.
There are county and state laws designed to protect people from unsafe property next to them. The same laws allow property owners to do certain things with their land.
So why do so many people think they can deny their neighbor their rights, such as developing their property?
I’ve been covering county planning and zoning board meetings for 6-1/2 years. If I had a dollar for every person who’s said they moved here to get away from development, I wouldn’t be worrying about paying for two children in college.
That’s not to say I don’t sympathize with those who may soon have more neighbors than they’d like. I’ve enjoyed open spaces or undeveloped land around me just about everywhere I’ve lived. Just last year, my husband, Ray, and I moved even farther out into the country.
I enjoy the peacefulness of living away from town. I relish watching deer and other wildlife come near our house. Sometimes they walk through our property, but our best view is from our porch in the evenings or while looking out our bathroom window in the morning as I get ready for work. From those vantage points I see the deer making their way across our neighbors’ properties.
I don’t have to pay property taxes on any of their land, but I can take advantage of the spectacular view and all it has to offer. Would I want to look out over another house? No, but I know the only way to prevent that would be to own the property myself.
With all that said, I have a few comments to make, based on statements made Thursday night. What I have to say could be said in response to almost any planning and zoning meeting, because, it seems, the public’s remarks are always the same, only the location of possible development varies.
If you don’t want someone living on the property next to you, buy it. You may not be able to afford the entire tract that, say, is going to be subdivided, but purchasing the adjoining lot gives you a cushion.
Please refrain from telling us you moved here to get away from people, or to get away from the city, or whatever. Why do you think you can build here but no one else can? The person you bought your land from wanted to sell it; your neighbor is entitled to do the same.
Many of our roads need improvement ‘ widening, straightening, lower speed limits. But it’s the drivers who don’t use good judgment, not the quantity of motorists, that make them dangerous. And those drivers can live anywhere: on a 40-acre parcel, in a subdivision, in our county, outside our county.
For example, on Thursday morning I drove to work on S.R. 337 following a white car that was behind a pickup truck. The truck driver was going the speed limit ‘ 40 mph ‘ and sometimes a little over the limit. The driver of the car, a midsize four-door, was apparently in a hurry and passed the truck on a double yellow line. Oh, but wait, the driver was courteous enough to indicate what he or she was going to do by using their turn signal. If only all drivers would remember that their vehicles have turn signals and would use them.
(What’s the point of spending the money to paint lines on the road if we’re not going to obey what they mean? And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen motorists take their side of the road out of the middle. What if I decided to drive there, too?)
Anyway, the driver who was in the hurry last week was in a vehicle that had a Crawford County license plate. Perhaps it was someone who moved even farther out from the city but now makes our roads more dangerous by using poor judgment and making illegal traffic moves while driving even more miles to and from work.
Then there’s the theory that subdivisions breed trespassers. Why assume the worst in people? Anyone can go on your property illegally at just about any time, regardless if the adjoining land is owned by a farmer or has a subdivision on it. There is legal recourse you can take against violators. But, on the other hand, neighbors can be good. They can provide more eyes looking out for your property, to let you know when something is not right, or when unauthorized people are on your land.
Thursday night a woman said she’s very interested in preserving farm land. A task force has been meeting monthly for more than a year now to develop a plan to preserve farm land, forests and open spaces. The plan will be strictly voluntary, so you can’t make your neighbor participate so that you won’t have houses next to you. Instead, the goal is to give landowners another option for their property besides selling it to developers.
The task force meetings are held the last Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Harrison County Annex Building. They are open to the public. Anyone interested in protecting our land from becoming entirely developed is urged to attend these meetings.
The fifth verse Guthrie penned in 1956 was unfamiliar to me. It says, ‘ … I see my people and some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’ if this land’s still made for you and me.’
I hear grumbling every month, sometimes weekly when you throw in the Live Wire calls about planning and zoning boards. I believe the members of our Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals are doing a great job of trying to be fair and guide development in preferred areas. Not necessarily in locations where some property owners would have it established, but in sites that are near existing infrastructure.
The land is still our land. We just need to remember which is ours and which belongs to our neighbors. Because as long as there are people in this world, they have to live some place.