WESTMINSTER — Carroll environmentalists, sportsmen and recreation officials have urged the county's General Assembly delegation to lobby to save an arboretum from being bought and developed for other purposes.
Upset that state officials decided last month to postpone purchasing Greenway Gardens & Arboretum in order to trim the budget deficit, they turned out in force Saturday at the annual presession public hearing to lodge their disapproval.
About 60 residents attended the hearing at the County Office Building to offer views on recommended state tax structure changes, proposed county liquor law revisions and hunting legislation and the abortion issue. The crowd was the largest and most vocal in his nine yearsas a representative, said Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources had reached an agreement with garden and arboretum owner Dottie deWilde to buy the 27-acre property off East Nicodemus Road south of Westminster for $450,000. The state was planning to include the property, which also features an old farmhouse and barn, as a special nature and education center withinthe 1,300-acre Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area. (Please see related story on Page 22.)
The state planned to use money from Program Open Space -- a fund established to buy land for parks and preservation -- but POS budget cuts have been proposed. DeWilde has said shemust sell the property soon and will entertain offers from private bidders.
"Once it's gone, it's gone forever. It will be developed,"warned Merrill Sumey of Sykesville, vice chairman of the county's Board of Recreation and Parks.
If included in Morgan Run, the property could be an attraction for Carroll residents and tourists and provide an outlet for volunteer organizations, such as Scouts and gardening clubs, said Sue Ellen May of Eldersburg, president of the Piney Run Recreation Council.
"This isn't just an open piece of ground. It's a highly developed arboretum," she said. "It's a chance to add a jewel in the state park crown. It's a do-it-now proposal."
Dixon, a House Appropriations Committee member, advised the audience that thelegislature can delete items from the budget submitted by the governor, but can't add to it. Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said the state should honor its agreement.
Bills requested by the County Commissioners drew little comment, except for several proposals concerning liquor law changes. Everett Treadway, owner of Sunset Lounge in Hampstead, and Herbert H. Ferguson of Westminster objected toa proposed increase in liquor license fees.
"Your job is to keep our taxes down," said Ferguson. "This is another form of a tax. Our industry is one of the most heavily burdened and taxed in the state."
Delegation members said county officials have not offered reasoning to support the increase, other than that the fees have not been raised since 1979.
Several residents urged the delegation to vote against any proposed tax increases, specifically those that might springfrom the Maryland Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure, assigned three years ago to design a more equitable taxation system. They said proposals to redistribute tax burden and income appeared more like tax increases than tax reforms.
Other legislation requested by the commissioners would authorize the county to sell bonds to financecapital projects, contribute $1 million to Carroll County General Hospital over five years and establish public farmers markets.
Taneytown resident Wayne Cogswell, who said he represented sportsman clubsand stores, asked the delegation to consider sponsoring a bill outlawing rifle hunting in the county because the high-powered guns pose adanger. Shotgun hunting should still be permitted, he said.
Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said more people testified about deer hunting regulations than any other issue at the Frederick County delegation meeting.
"There's no question when a county grows, additional measures need to be taken," he said.
The delegates agreed they wanted more information on dangerous situations before pursuing action on the proposal.
Several residents urged the delegates to vote against any bill providing protection for abortion rights. After hearing several long speeches condemning abortion rights, Mary Jackson of Westminster stood up and said, "I want you to knowI am pro-choice."
Westminster resident Ralph Peters implored the delegates to settle the abortion issue at the beginning of the session so other important legislation doesn't become backlogged.
Other groups requesting legislation are:
* The Carroll Farm Bureau, which recommends regulating all-terrain vehicles and assuring money designated for farmland preservation is adequate to cover easement sale offers made by property owners.
* The Carroll chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, which supports a measure to make it easier for municipalities to collect fines from lawbreakers.