Landowners donate rights for conservation

January 01, 1995|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

Walter Dandy likes to walk among the yellow lady-slipper, the showy orchis and the whorled pogonia on his property near Monkton, and he is paying a price to keep his property hospitable to the wildflowers forever.

Mr. Dandy, his wife, Anne, and five other landowners in the area have given perpetual conservation easements to the Maryland Environmental Trust, a state agency. The easements mean the properties never can be subdivided and developed. As a consequence, the resale value falls sharply.

"They're all members of the orchid family," Mr. Dandy said of the wildflowers. He pointed out a fernlike plant growing under an oak tree. "There's one of the four kinds of club moss on this property."

Mr. Dandy, a retired doctor, and his wife live on 30 acres of hill and valley in the My Lady's Manor Historic District in northern Baltimore County. He is not concerned about the loss in value to his land.

"Maybe the property will grow in value on its own in time," he said. "There are people who would like to live in this setting."

Easement contributors receive a tax break based on the appraised difference between the property's value as agriculture acreage and its subdivision value, not nearly enough to overcome the loss in resale value.

"People are donating for preservation, and not for financial benefit," said Jim Constable, president of the Manor Conservancy, a land trust formed last year to protect the My Lady's Manor Historic District from development.

Landowners retain all other rights of ownership.

Henry and Marian Baker, neighbors of the Dandys, have placed their 55 acres under easement.

"We want to see the land preserved," Mr. Baker said. "The six of us have put in more than 200 acres, and we would like to double that from other landowners in the area."

Other contributors are Dr. Douglas G. Carroll III, 79 acres; R. Gordon and Melanie Long, 15 acres; Lloyd and Marguerite Miller, 13 acres, and J. Ronald Roth, 38 acres.

The Dandy home sits on a tree-covered ridge overlooking Pleasant Valley. Springs keep a pond Mr. Dandy built full of water, and small streams wander along the narrow valley to empty eventually into Little Gunpowder Falls.

Mr. Dandy used to raise livestock on the property, but has turned it over to meadow, trees -- including tulip poplars, oak, black birch and maple -- and the abundant wildlife.

Most of the property in the area is zoned RC-4, which designates a rural conservation watershed protection zone. Subdivisions are permitted, but building is restricted. Cluster zoning, which permits building on only 30 percent of a property, is permitted under RC-4.

"We're worried about development," Melanie Long said. "We love our property and we think it's important to keep it the way it is."

Residents have been fighting development proposals in the Monkton area.

Gaylord Brooks, a development company, has separate parcels of 85 acres and 172 acres it wants to subdivide.

The county Board of Appeals ruled in favor of the developer on the smaller parcel, and this was appealed by area residents to Circuit Court. A hearing was held in June, but no decision has been rendered.

The Board of Appeals has heard arguments on the 172 acres, but hasn't issued an opinion.

The latest donations raise the total conservation easement acreage in the county to 6,556, including 1,400 in My Lady's Manor.

The Maryland Environmental Trust holds easements on 43,000 acres statewide.

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