The Schramm family wants to cancel an 11-year-old agricultural land preservation agreement so members can subdivide their 213-acre turkey farm, the last farm in the highly developed Mountain Road corridor.
A bill, introduced Monday before the County Council at the family's request, would abolish the Armiger Agricultural Land Preservation District, which the Schramms joined in 1980, agreeing not to subdivide their property until at least 1995.
The farm is the only property in the Armiger preservation district, which is surrounded by townhouse developments and strip malls.
Emma Schramm once told a reporter: "I just say that it takes a good farmer to tell a real estate man to go jump in the lake, when you could earn more in interest than you can make on farming."
FOR THE RECORD - A headline on Friday's story about the development of the Schramm turkey farm in Pasadena misstated the intent of a bill before the County Council.
The bill, sponsored by County Executive Robert Neall, would permit the Schramms to cancel an agricultural land preservation agreement so that the farm can be developed before 1995.
But with matron Evelyn now in her 80s, siblings Bill, Louis and Emma in their mid-60s and no younger family members to take over, the Schramms reluctantly announced in March thatthey planned to sell out when they retire. Emma Schramm explained that they were afraid the family fortune would be decimated by inheritance taxes if one or more of them died.
None of the family members would comment on their request to withdraw the farm from the preservation district.
The state land preservation program, designed to curb the expansion of urban sprawl and protect farms and forests, provides property tax credits and after five years qualifies farmers for state easement grants. If the Schramms are allowed out of the preservation district they will be required to pay back the tax credits they received for pledging not to cash in on the developed value of the farm.
Delegate W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, who has tried to help the Schramms keep their land under till, said the farm could and should have been perpetually preserved with a state easement, but all $17 million were taken from the preservation fund this year to balance the state budget.
"You hate to lose (the Schramm family farm) because they are like the heart and soul of the community. But I don't think there are any other options for them because there's no money in the foundation," Huff said.
A perpetual easement, unlike the preservationdistricts, would have been irreversible, because the state's purchase of an easement pays for a farm's developed value, minus its worth as agricultural or open space land.
Until something is done to reimburse farmers for the development rights on their property, Huff predicted, more and more hold-out farmers will go the way of the Schramms.
State Department of Agriculture spokesman Harold Kanarek said the department has a massive backlog of qualified applicants for perpetual easements and doesn't expect to be able to catch up for a year ortwo.
"What will happen if the trend continues and all money in the program is taken again, you will see a lot more farmers trying to get out of the preservation districts," Kanarek said.
Statewide, preservation districts tentatively protect 1,500 farms covering 194,000acres he said. Farmers renew their pledge every five years to stay in the program and are allowed to withdraw their land only if the character of the property changes or they can prove economic hardship.
Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall, who sponsored the legislation, said that since the Schramms closed their turkey business in January, the farm no longer fits the legal criteria. Hayman said the Schramms are the first farmers to ask out of a preservation contract in the 14-year history of the program.
Councilman Carl "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, said he doesn't see any reason why the bill wouldn't pass after its Aug. 19 public hearing.
"I hate to see it go. It's really a piece of the Anne Arundel County landscape, but the landscape is changing. They're within their legal rights, and I haven't heard of any opposition in the community," Hollandsaid.
Dave Williams, president of the Greater Pasadena Council, wished the Schramms well and said he didn't think anybody could fault them for selling out to finance their retirements.