Residents to get their say Tuesday on rural development proposal Plan would steer growth away from pristine areas

September 06, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Residents will get a chance Tuesday to tell the County Council what they think of a plan designed to steer growth away from farms and other pristine rural areas.

A public hearing on the Rural Plan, a county Department o Planning and Zoning report, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in council chambers in Bel Air.

Don Hoopes, president of the 900-member Harford Farm Bureau, said farmers support the plan and praised the county for its cooperation in working with them

and dealing with their concerns.

For example, Mr. Hoopes said, county officials agreed to change the word "shall" to "should" in many parts of the document, giving farmers more options to preserve land.

"We can live with the current plan knowing we'll be consulted in future matters," said Mr. Hoopes, who met Thursday night with Mike Paone, the county's senior rural planner, and Stoney Fraley, a county senior planner.

Deborah Bowers, chairwoman of Harford Citizens for Farmland Preservation, also praised the plan, calling it "well thought out."

But County Councilman Philip J. Barker, D-District F, suggested the plan would add more bureaucracy when the county could perhaps more effectively preserve

land through its master road plan and by strengthening existing environmental laws.

"Maybe we don't need to add another level of bureaucracy," Mr. Barker said.

County officials say the plan is needed to prevent the steady stream of development that has replaced barns with houses and traded pastures for back-yard


Harford now has about 96,000 acres in rural or agricultural areas down from 149,000 acres in 1965, county statistics show. Meanwhile, the market value of agricultural products from county farms has dipped to $24.5 million in 1990, from $25.3 million in 1978, statistics show.

The 40-page Rural Plan contains several proposals:

* Transfer of development rights would allow property owners to sell their development rights to developers, who could build in other areas of the county at greater densities than zoning laws permit. Those who sold their development rights could no longer develop their properties.

, The county has yet to select

"sending areas," land for which property owners could sell development rights, and "receiving areas," where developers could use the rights.

* Purchase of development rights would permit property owners to sell their development rights for the land to the county, while agreeing to maintain the land for agricultural uses.

* Village centers would be existing communities, such as Jarrettsville and Fallston, where the county would direct low-density development to prevent sprawling development throughout rural areas.

* Residential conservation development standards would enable developers to "cluster" houses on smaller lots to allow more land to be left as open space.

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