Eighteen years ago, the eastern Carroll County town of Hampstead laid claim to a little piece of neighboring Baltimore County.
By annexing the Roberts Field subdivision into the town's corporate limits, Hampstead's town fathers at that time grabbed about 232 acres of land that were located east of the Carroll line in Baltimore County.
Baltimore County officials discovered this infringement on the county's sovereignty wholly by accident during the last session of the General Assembly. A sharp-eyed legislative analyst pointed out this anomaly to the county's lobbyist in Annapolis. For years, Baltimore County considered itself a jurisdiction without any incorporated towns, but the analyst noted the county was home to a portion of an incorporated town.
While Baltimore County officials expressed a great deal of surprise about Hampstead's sleight-of-hand annexation years ago, the town's action also raises concern among residents of Baltimore County. They worry that annexation of this type could be used to circumvent the county's development regulations and standards.
Was this quiet annexation done in a furtive fashion to skirt Baltimore County's stated goal to prevent urbanization of its northwest greenbelt?
Was the annexation executed properly and the notification to Baltimore County simply not properly acknowledged and recorded?
We may never know all the circumstances involved in this matter because the records have yet to turn up and Hampstead's town clerk at the time, who might have recalled the details, has died.
What is clear is that when the developers bought the property that eventually became Roberts Fields, they acquired a portion that fell over the county line into Baltimore County. Rather than leave that portion undeveloped, the land was annexed and became subject to Hampstead's zoning and development regulations.
Leaders of Baltimore County's Valleys Planning Council worry that Hampstead's small land grab could open the way for larger incursions that would bring development into an area of the county intended to remain agricultural.
On that front, they probably need not be alarmed. Considering the number of people in Carroll County's towns who now carefully monitor all local government actions that would increase development, the day of the secret annexation is presumably over.