ANNAPOLIS — Farmers, environmentalists, builders and government officials packeda legislative hearing room yesterday to voice their opinions on a plan to control growth in Maryland.
Proponents say the state must act now to prevent further pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and save remaining open space before it is gobbled by suburban sprawl.
Opponents say the plan, commonly call the 2020 report, will give the state too much authority to decide how land is used and complain that farmers and others could lose equity if zoning on their land is changed.
The Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony all afternoon and into the evening on the bill, which is based on study results from the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region.
County Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, Planning Director Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman and about 20 Carroll farmers attended to protest. About 400 people were at the hearing.
Farmers have been the most vocal opponents of the bill, which alsohas been introduced in the House. Yesterday, about 300 farmers wore round stickers saying "Maryland Farm Bureau" and buttons with a slashthrough "2020."
Proponents, including environmentalists and some citizens groups, wore green-and-white stickers with a slash through the word "sprawl."
Committee Chairman Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, said he had nine pages of signatures of proponents who wanted to testify at the hearing and 17 pages of opponents. He promised to hearall of them.
Michael D. Barnes, former U.S. representative from Montgomery County and chairman of the commission that wrote the 2020 report, said that in the past five years Maryland has developed the equivalent of 2 Baltimore cities.
"We are going to be out of land. When it's gone, it's gone for good," he said.
Between 1985 and 1990, 70 percent of the land developed was low-density residential development on lots ranging from to 5 acres, which created "sprawl," thereport says.
About 75,000 acres of agricultural land were lost todevelopment during that period, Barnes said.
The legislation, if enacted, would require growth to be clustered around municipalities and would limit residential development in agriculture zones to one home per 20 acres. Carroll County's Master Plan already includes these initiatives.
But Dell said the county opposes the bill even thoughit agrees with Carroll's "visions" because the plan would create "anexpensive, time-consuming bureaucracy" and because farmland would bedevalued.
Washington consultant Robert J. Gray studied the impactzoning changes have had on farmland prices in six counties, including Carroll, and found no adverse impact. His study also found that restrictive zoning does not hurt farmers' ability to obtain bank loans because most banks lend based on a farmer's cash flow, not on the landvalue.
Carroll Farm Bureau President C. William Knill said: "Zoning definitely has an affect on the value of property. I don't care what anybody says."
Knill said more county farmers have obtained loans based on the value of their land, although the productivity of their farm operation is considered.