Finksburg's Gary R. Brauning II and other county farmers say they'reworried about their future if the legislature approves a state land-use plan.
They say the plan, commonly called the 2020 report, could prevent them from selling their land when they're ready to retire, a nest egg many of them have counted on, he said.
But a consultant studying how the report could affect farmers said Carroll shouldn't be affected drastically if the plan is adopted because the county has zoning similar to what the 2020 report recommends.
"Carroll County already has done the right thing," said Robert J. Gray of Resource Management Consultants Inc. in Washington, who was hired by the state planning office. "If all the counties had done this, we wouldn't have had to do this (adopt a land-use plan) statewide."
This week, Senate and House committees will hear testimony on a bill based on recommendations made by the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region, which produced the 2020 report.
About 30 Carroll farmers plan to attend the Annapolis hearings Tuesday and Thursday, Brauning said. The Maryland Farm Bureau predicts about 1,000 farmers from across the state will attend.
The bill ismeant to strike a balance between growth and environmental needs. Ifenacted, it would dictate that growth be clustered around municipalities and that residential development in agriculture zones be limitedto one home per 20 acres.
Carroll's master plan already has theseinitiatives, but ag zoning includes exceptions that allow for more lots, Planning Director Edmund R. Cueman said. The ratio in the ag zone is closer to one house for every 16 acres, he said.
If the 2020 report is adopted, the exceptions, which are "near and dear to the hearts of Carroll countians," would be "wiped out," Cueman said.
"Overall lot yield is substantially reduced, and it is expected to have a significant effect on the market value and equity of land in the agricultural district," he said.
Gray said his analysis, which will be presented at the hearings next week, will show that zoning hasn't had much of an impact on land prices. General economic conditions, interest rates and proximity to other developed areas have more of an impact, he said.
Brauning, who operates a dairy farm with his father and one brother, said farmers don't want to lose the right to develop their land as they please. His grandfather had developed parts of the family's farm over the years, and his father has given lots to two daughters in recent years, Brauning said.
"You don't want to give away your options," he said.
If he were unable to continue farming because of illness, for example, he wouldn't be able to sell any lots if the 2020 report were adopted, Brauning said.
"Why sell something short with the stroke of a pen?" he said.
The Maryland Farm Bureau is recommending that the legislature delay action for at leasta year and conduct further study.
The Maryland Association of Counties is recommending amendments to the bill that would make it more flexible and would increase cooperative efforts between county and state planning offices.
As it's proposed now, the bill would give the state jurisdiction over land-use decisions.
Cueman, a member of a MACO committee which drew up the amendments, said that the association and Carroll County support the "visions" of the 2020 report and that Carroll and other counties already are working toward them with their own plans.
MACO is suggesting that final guidelines for implementing the plan be adopted by the legislature, not state administrators.
Three Carroll legislators will vote on the bill in committee,the first stage of passage for the measure. Two said they oppose thebills; another said he hasn't decided yet.
Delegates Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, and Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, serve on the House Environmental Matters Committee. Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, is on the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Elliott and Haines said they oppose the bill. LaMotte said he is undecided.