Get To Root Of Tree Preservation Plan, Farmers Urged

May 05, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

The Harford County Farm Bureau, concerned about the effect of a proposed county tree preservation measure on land values, is urging members to take part in discussions on the bill.

Sam Foard, a member ofthe bureau's board of directors, said the bureau has not decided what position to take on the proposal of County Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C.

"We're just trying to get farmers to be alert and be aware of what's happening," said Foard, a 61-year-old grain farmer who lives nearJarrettsville.

"We want to get them involved. That way, instead of finding ourselves in the position of going to a hearing and fighting with each other, we can find a way to work on the ground floor withthe council and county executive."

The county farm bureau unsuccessfully opposed a state tree preservation bill during the recent General Assembly session. The bill awaits the governor's signature. It would take effect in December 1992.

Foard and other farmers attendedMonday night's council workshop on the bill -- the last open workshop before Pierno plans to introduce her proposal to the council. Her proposal is more strict in some ways than the state bill, requiring developers to reforest or preserve a percentage of trees on developed land.

However, Pierno's bill would not affect farmers who clear land for agricultural purposes, provided the land isn't developed for five years.

But Foard said that doesn't mean farmers shouldn't be concerned.

"If farmers want to survive into the 21st century, we must not only be involved in production agriculture, but represent ourselves in the political arena," he said.

Pierno's bill would requiredevelopers buying land from farmers under certain circumstances to plant trees where none exist. Because of this, Foard is concerned the bill would affect the value of already-cleared farmland. He fears that since planting trees will add to the developer's cost, the developer will pay the farmer less for the land.

"The more costs that comeinto development, the one place to get money is on the raw land side-- to pay less for the land. I'm very jealous of property values that farmers have on their land -- the land is their savings, retirement, the whole ball of wax."

Many farmers don't want to sell their land, Foard said, but because it represents savings and retirement, farmers must be concerned about the potential market for their land.

"I don't want to get old and find if I need to sell some of my land to pay for my needs that I couldn't do it," he said. "We, farmers and land owners, have been hit with critical areas legislation, wetlands restrictions, an attempted 2020 bill, and now the tree bill."

The 2020 commission, a task force appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, had proposed changes to guide land use until the year 2020. The bill was referred for summer study.

But Pierno said she doesn't believe her proposal would apply any more restrictions than the state tree preservation bill.

"I don't see where this is going to affect land value, because this would be a blanket law. It wouldn't make it any less valuable than any other piece of land," said Pierno.

Pierno said she plans to meet this week with members of the Farm Bureau and others who want to offer suggestions.

"Once they realize what the bill actually is going to do, I think I can allay those fears," said Pierno.

"But I can see that they're coming off a year when we'vehad a reduction in agricultural preservation. . . . They feel like they're fighting things from all fronts."

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