Purchase of Satyr Hill is favored Preservation wins Schaefer's backing

January 26, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Abandoning his original opposition, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday endorsed the public purchase of Satyr Hill Farm, and was so taken with the rural vista three miles north of Towson that he proposed buying the rest of the Cromwell Valley to preserve it from development.

"I won't mince words, I'm for it," the governor said of the proposed Satyr Hill Farm purchase before touring the property with County Executive Roger B. Hayden and members of the governor's Cabinet.

"I was against it, and I changed my mind. It's going to happen," Mr. Schaefer said. "Once the land is lost, it's gone forever.

"In fact, I would like to have all three [Cromwell Valley] farms in the Open Space program," he said. "To see this great piece of land is worth a thousand letters and phone calls. I'm going to recommend purchase of this farm at the next Board of Public Works meeting."

When the three-member board meets Feb. 3, it will consider the sale of general obligation bonds to meet the $1,875,000 state share of the $3.7 million purchase price.

The county will put up $1,825,000 from its Project Open Space funds, money collected from a 0.5 percent tax on property-title transfers, according to Wayne Harman, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

Mr. Schaefer and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, two of the three votes on the Board of Public Works, opposed a bond issue for the property in October. In a fit of political pique, the governor complained at the time that Baltimore County legislators had voted against his budget and tax package and opposed similar land projects in other counties.

Mr. Goldstein has routinely opposed borrowing money for park land, which was financed from the state's general fund budget ** until Maryland's latest fiscal crunch.

Yesterday he was a bit upset at not being invited to the party.

"I've voted to add more than 150,000 acres for preservation, but I just don't believe in borrowing money for it," he said. "I wasn't even invited to go on the tour. I catch the devil about not being for this acquisition, but my record speaks for itself."

The third member of the board, Treasurer Lucille Maurer, has supported the purchase.

The 220-acre farm is zoned residential and could support about 200 homes. It is owned by 13 entities in a partnership. It has been saved from development under an option held by the Chesapeake Land Project for the Trust for Private Land, a non-profit conservation group. The Trust has been working with the state and county on acquisition of the property for several years.

The county would operate the farm under a 99-year lease from the state and would be responsible for all maintenance.

Mr. Harman said he hopes the farm will become self-sustaining.

"We're going to need some county help to begin with for grass-cutting and painting and things like that, but I think we can produce revenue from the farm through farming, boarding of horses, and rentals of the cottages," he said.

Three caretaker's cottages are on the property, along with a four-bedroom home, a barn and some outbuildings.

The county would develop the site as a recreational area and model farm, and it would be open for bird-watching, hiking, horseback riding and other forms of passive recreation, Mr. Harman said. Tentative plans include a visitor's center and a farm museum.

"We'll work with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure everything is in harmony with the area and with other public lands," he said.

The other two large farms in the valley are the Sherwood Farm and Good Fellowship Farm. Mr. Schaefer offered no details about their potential purchase, other than to say he favored it in principle.

The 102-acre Sherwood Farm is held by the Maryland Environmental Trust. Under the terms of its conservation easement, the land can never be developed, although it can be sold as a farm. State and county acquisition would provide public access to the property.

Sixty acres of the 137-acre Good Fellowship Farm, owned by C. Franklin Eck Jr., already have been developed, and neighborhood associations have been fighting further building plans.

David M. Meadows, Mr. Eck's attorney, said he didn't know of any contact between the state, county and Mr. Eck on purchase of the property. Mr. Eck could not be reached for comment.

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