An Overview

The Cost of Community Services Study is a planning technique which instructs its users to collect government income and expenses and then attempt to designate them to specific land-use categories. It is designed to make residential development appear to consume much more revenue in services than it pays for in taxes. The study has been used as a land-use planning "tool" nationwide, as well as throughout Western Montana.
The COCS was developed by American Farmland Trust, an organization specifically interested in stopping residential development. Assisting with that development was Mark Haggerty, who is now with the radical Greater Yellowstone Coalition. AFT was itself founded by an executive director of the anti-development Sierra Club, and is known as part of the vast environmental network "that buys up land and sells it to the government...while pretending to be preserving the rural farm way of life". ('Trashing the Economy' by Ron Arnold, 425 454-7009, an exhaustive expos‚ of foundations and groups in the environmental movement.) The COCS has clearly been fostered by the kind of people and organizations that are dedicated to halting development and curtailing private property rights.
AFT disseminates the COCS by partnering with such groups as the Sonoran Institute, another anti-development organization, to promote what Sonoran calls "Community Stewardship", or similar planning forums for unsuspecting county commissioners and planners. Sonoran has not been up-front with the fact that they are an environmental group funded specifically for the purpose of promoting the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, a coalition of at least 170 environmental groups who are determined to establish as much wilderness habitat as possible. Neither does Sonoran reveal that Y2Y literature requests that its adherents who live in the Y2Y area "Work at the local level to ensure that principles of conservation biology are recognized in current management, planning, and land use decisions." The COCS ably serves to bring Sonoran's anti-growth, private property control, Y2Y agenda directly into county planning policy.
An example of the COCS study's anti-residential bias is found in AFT's 'How to do a COCS' handbook when it instructs its users that after compiling county income and expenses, they are to designate "all" of the expenses of education and most of health and human services to the "Residential" category. This is at best a highly debatable assumption. "Remember," the handbook then continues, "farm houses are considered residential." This is another highly questionable assumption. The other typical COCS categories, 'Agriculture', 'Commercial' and 'Industrial', are not charged at all for education or for most of the expense of services such as roads, sheriffs and fire control for their residences and families. The COCS bias against the "Residential"category is obvious.
The simple fact is that residential cannot be separated from the other categories. Residential exists predominately because of agriculture, commercial businesses and industry. While a separate 'Residential' category consisting of home businesses, retirees, etc. might exist in some places, it would tend to be relatively small, and certain demographics relating to these types of residences would almost certainly minimize their cost of services. The COCS, by instructing that most expenses be charged to 'Residential', accomplishes exactly what it was designed to do: limit residential development, and tend toward control of private property rights.
Click this link to download an eleven page report in pdf format: The Cost of Community Services Study: An Analysis, which disputes AFT's COCS study.


Compiled by The Alternative View, 406-285-3119,