Would the county's proposed plan to preserve Harford farms drive development to other rural areas?
That's the question County Council members want to answer as they review the proposed Rural Plan, a Department of Planning and Zoning report designed to steer growth away from valued farms and undeveloped areas.
Councilwoman Joanne Parrott, R-District B, said that the plan would bring intense development to lands that border the county's fastest-growing areas.
"My speculation is that you're going to dump this on Jarrettsville, Forest Hill and Fallston," Mrs. Parrott said. "That's where all the [rural-residential] areas are now." Existing law allows developers build one home per every two acres in rural-residential areas.
The council is reviewing the plan in work sessions with representatives of the county Planning and Zoning Department throughout July. Council members and planners will meet tomorrow at 3 p.m. and again on July 27.
Legislation to put the plan into action is expected to be introduced before the council in August and public hearings in September.
The council and planners reviewed a section of the plan on Monday that suggests the county establish a program to transfer "development rights."
The program would allow farmers to sell their development rights to developers, who could build houses in other areas of the county at greater densities than zoning laws permit. Farmers who sold their development rights could no longer develop their properties.
The county would establish "sending areas," land for which farmers could sell development rights, and "receiving areas," where developers could use the rights. These areas have not been selected.
William Carroll, director of the planning department, said receiving areas would be sections of the county already targeted for growth, including areas designated for intense development and rural sections of the county where moderate growth is permitted.
Steven Scheinin, president of the Greater Fallston Association, said areas where intense growth is now permitted -- from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace and from Edgewood to Bel Air -- should be the only receiving areas.
But Mr. Carroll said the county cannot rely on the main development areas of the county to accept all growth from the transfer program because much of the land in the corridor is already zoned for high-density development.
If the county continues growing at its current rate over the next 10 years, the designated development areas will be filled, and developers will begin looking to other areas, Mr. Carroll said.
"The pressure will build at that point," he told the council. "People are going to come in here for rezoning. You're going to have to look at this one way or another."
The county would forbid high-density development in rural areas selected as receiving areas, he added. In the transfer program, developers could build one house for every two acres -- the same limit under existing zoning laws.
L Some residents, however, expressed doubts about the program.
Mr. Scheinin, of the Fallston association, said it would strengthen a developer's argument for rezonings in rural areas, such as Fallston.
"As far as we're concerned," one woman said, "this is opening a can of worms we don't need."
Mr. Carroll countered that the county would undertake detailed reviews of sites selected as receiving areas to make sure they can handle growth without significantly affecting communities.
But Councilman Robert Wagner, R-District E, said he doubted the transfer program would work without causing heated disputes between citizens, developers and the county.
"Every single one of these [transfers of development rights] are going to become a Windsor Mall-type issue," the councilman said, referring to a controversial rezoning request for a shopping mall in Abingdon that citizens vigorously opposed in 1990.