Preserving farmland should be a priority for Carroll, two commissioners said yesterday after hearing complaints from one resident that the county should spend its money on other things in tough economic times.
"We either do things now or it's not going to get done," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.
Much of the land currently available for preservation will be developed in five years, she said.
"This is something I've been asking for since 1978," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said.
Thecommissioners are considering whether to approve an alternative planfor preserving farmland in the county because the state's preservation budget is almost depleted.
They sponsored a public hearing yesterday morning to hear comments on the "critical farms" plan, which would allow the county to give farmers interest-free loans while they try to get into the state's preservation program.
Six people attended the hearing at the County Office Building.
The plan is designedto preserve "high-quality farms located in important areas where development shouldn't occur," said William Powel, administrator of the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program.
Ralph Shipley of Taneytown was the only one to object at the hearing. Taxes should "go somewhere more important than this," he said, without giving details.
Louise Fillion and Mildred Shipley of Westminster, sisters who were raised on county farms, engaged Ralph Shipley in a debate.
"We can't afford to have (the county) completely developed," Fillion said. "Keep Carroll rural. Keep farming. It's definitely necessary."
Ralph Shipley said the preservation program, available in Carroll for 11 years, has not worked well and not enough land is available in thecounty for farming.
Carroll has the most successful farmland preservation program in the country, according to the American Farmland Trust in Washington. The county has preserved 20,000 acres permanentlyand has another 20,000 acres in five-year districts.
A 1990 report to the commissioners on the future of agriculture recommended that 100,000 acres be preserved to keep agriculture viable in Carroll.
Mike Mathias, a New Windsor dairy farmer, attended the hearing because he might benefit from the new plan, if it's approved. His family owns about 290 acres, which are permanently preserved for farming. In January, they bought another 93 adjoining acres and hope to preserve it, too, he said.
If the family hadn't bought the land, there would"be bulldozers on it right now" because the former owner wanted to sell the land for houses, Mathias said.
The record will be open forpublic comments for 10 days, followed by the commissioners' vote on the plan, after possibly amending it, Dell said, adding he and Gouge do not know how much money might be available for the program in fiscal 1993.
Commissioner Elmer Lippy was at a meeting in Baltimore, not at the hearing.
Copies of the proposed plan are available at Powel's office. Information: 857-2145.