Not all in the family Abuse of family conveyance law creating development nightmare.

March 22, 1996

A GOOD LAW involves two essential ingredients. It must aim to accomplish something worthwhile, and it must be crafted to fulfill that aim only. Anne Arundel County's so-called "family conveyance" law meets only the first of these criteria. Its goal to make it easy for families with property to carve out lots for children and other close relatives makes sense. But faulty construction of the law has allowed it to be used in a way it was never intended as a loophole for development in areas where growth is not planned.

This loosely-written measure is wreaking havoc with planning for roads, schools and other infrastructure in almost every part of Anne Arundel. It is being exploited in a variety of ways. A family with property can apply for the maximum number of lots allowed under the law which is greater than zoning allows then promptly sell them. Not only doesn't the law require family members to live on subdivided lots, it doesn't require proof that the land was ever deeded to them. Or, a family can divide land into several parcels and give them to family members, who then would apply for conveyances on those parcels, and so on, until dozens of lots have been created which then could be sold. Planners say families with a chunk of land have asked to subdivide it for certain family members, then returned a year later with a different chunk of land and a request to give pieces of it to the same family members.

County Council members Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold, and John Klocko, R-Crofton, are sponsoring legislation to require families to deed conveyed lots to a family member within a year or go through the formal subdivision process. Also, they want to prohibit people who have received land through family conveyance from selling it for five years, and to stipulate that a piece of land be subdivided this way only once.

The council may wish to tinker with this language, because it is not unreasonable that a child who receives a substantial piece of property from his parents may want someday to give a piece to his children. Overall, however, the Evans-Klocko bill is on the right track. Family conveyances should be a hassle-free way for people to bequeath land to their loved ones, not a way to make a small fortune by developing land where growth isn't supposed to occur.

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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