What harm does development cause?

I just read the lead article in Nov. 16 Daily Illini, “C-U urban expansion threatens farmlands.” This is pure conventional wisdom which is not justified by reason.

Kirk Builta correctly states that good farmland is being used for urban development. Mr. Barnhart, a farmer, understands the incentive for farmers to sell their land. In other words, he’s not suggesting we take away the rights of property owners to sell their land to willing buyers. The artificially low tax rates applied to farmland benefits the farmer as do millions of dollars in federal subsidies, but these gifts don’t seem to keep farmland owners from selling. We all understand that you need large unobstructed pieces of land to develop economically.

No one is suggesting that development should stop in Champaign County.

Can anyone explain what is threatened by the use of farmland for other types of development? Please be as specific as possible.

What actual or potential harm is there?

What I see in Champaign County is wall-to-wall farming that leaves little room for anything else. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice to have tree-lined rural roads? The farm bureau will object because farmers don’t want any of there crops shaded, not even a little at the edge. What about the needs of the 98 percent of us who are not farmers?

Note that recent attempts by the county to pass more restrictions on the residential development of rural tracts were defeated. Land owners want the right to do what they like with their property.

Instead of arbitrarily taking property rights, what is needed are environmental controls. It doesn’t matter to me what my neighbor does with his/her property as long as my environment isn’t degraded by light, noise, water or air pollution. It’s OK to put a pig farm next door as long as it doesn’t make noise, stink or pollute the water and they don’t leave outdoor lights on all night.

What we really could use in Champaign County is more natural areas. A program to purchase and convert marginal farmland and land along waterways to woodland and prairie parks could gradually accomplish this.

Mark Washburn

University employee