By Michael Baxter
It seems fitting that my first official column for the new PBJ Online is a follow up to the column I wrote in February for PBJ’s final print edition [published online when PBJ re-launched]. The topic of that column was how regulatory processes that are clearly out of control are negatively affecting the local job market and our overall economy.
The community’s strong positive response to that article helped me realize that many people shared my opinion. When I attended a meeting of the region’s economic development marketing committee, that group continued the discussion and a long time friend and client challenged me to spearhead the effort for change. So in partnership with Chuck Leonard, the executive director of the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation; I hatched the idea for a group that’s calling itself Citizens Against Regulatory Excess (CARE).
We held our first gathering on April 1 and the concern and interest from the community was immediately evident. Although we had told only a small group of people via telephone and email, 65 people attended the meeting! The diversity of this group extends far beyond the real estate and development community. Our group includes physicians, engineers, public officials, manufacturers, attorneys, small business owners, educators, and citizens representing a variety of other interests. It is truly a community-wide effort.
The buzz words for the meeting were simple: accountability, communication, action, and – most importantly – balance. Though I’m helping to organize the group, I made it clear during my opening remarks that this group is not about selling or developing real estate. It is about finding solutions to the subjective and often time-consuming process associated with securing PennDOT and DEP guidance and approvals.
We quickly formed three committees: PennDOT, DEP, and Legislative, scheduling direct meetings every three weeks and communicating daily via an online forum. Our daily communication led quickly to the development of our mission statement:
The mission of Citizens Against Regulatory Excess is to achieve binding and timely review of Pocono area land development permits through collaboration with land development, elected, and appointed agency officials where all recognize the need for balance growth and accountability to the Constitution and enabling laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Based only on word-of-mouth and our mission statement, during the past 60 days our group has grown to more than 100 community members with more signing on each day.
Sound, tangible regulations help our community maintain the balance between development and preservation. However, the current policies as well as many planned changes, go beyond the scope of the written law, adding unnecessary time and expense to good projects and causing many prospective employers to bypass our area in favor of neighboring regions.
Our strategic plan, outlining our approach to tackling these problems head on, is nearly complete. It includes working with our current local government officials and legislators to strive for more balanced and less subjective policies and making the entitlement process more efficient and less expensive. We firmly believe that we can suggest reforms that strike a balance between maintaining our exceptional environment and the economic development and infrastructure improvements that are critical to maintaining the quality of life we enjoy in our beautiful area.
CARE is on the verge of initiating our public outreach efforts, so you can look for more news and results from C.A.R.E. very soon. Until then, feel free to contact me directly at 570-620-1900 ext 228, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply attend our next general meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. June 11 at the Monroe County Public Safety Center in Snydersville.
Michael J. Baxter, CCIM is the Broker/Owner of Michael Baxter and Associates located in Stroudsburg. He can be reached at (570) 620-1900 or via www.baxcommercial.com