Bill would allow growth while saving farmland Developers would pay fee to be used to preserve rural areas

April 04, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Two Republican County Council members have introduced a bill that would test a new way of developing suburban Anne Arundel County while preserving agricultural land.

The bill would require developers applying to build shopping centers along Route 3 to buy development rights on agricultural property three times larger than the proposed project and donate it to the county. Those rights are worth an average of $3,500 an acre on agricultural land. Landowners who sell development rights would agree not build on the property.

Parts of the legislation were originally written for a single commercial developer, Robert DeStefano, who is trying to build a shopping center and senior-housing complex along Route 3 near Crofton. Over the past two years, Mr. DeStefano's lawyers have drafted a dozen versions of the bill to allow The Village at Waugh Chapel to move ahead.

But the legislation introduced Monday by Councilmen John J. Klocko III of Crofton and Bert L. Rice of Odenton adds the key development-rights provision to what otherwise could have been characterized as special-interest legislation.

Harry C. Blumenthal, an Annapolis land-use attorney who repre- sents Mr. DeStefano, said he has not had time to review the new stipulations.

"Previous bills as they evolved became an amalgam of ideas that were acceptable to Mr. DeStefano and to community groups," Mr. Blumenthal said. "This [donating development rights] concept is new. I don't know if that's feasible."

The bill would add more than $500,000 to the cost of the 66-acre Waugh Chapel development.

John S. Pantelides, the project's manager, said he expects the development to go forward but is concerned by the additional cost from the legislation. "We expect to be the first applicant [for development rights], but this will have a tremendous effect," he said.

As written, the bill only applies to commercial projects from 30 acres to 75 acres with at least 1,000 feet bordering Route 3. The shopping complexes, which could include housing or public meeting halls and offices, could not be proposed for land now zoned for agricultural use.

If the experiment in the West County corridor is successful, the legislation could be expanded to include commercial development in rural areas countywide.

"That is my vision for this," Mr. Klocko said. "But it has to be tested first."

Mr. Klocko, who campaigned on land-use issues in 1994, has presented the bill as a way of balancing commercial development and residential growth.

He said new housing costs counties money by requiring public services and infrastructure. The bill, he said, would allow less costly commercial development while limiting residential growth and preserving agricultural land.

"It's an idea with a lot of potential," Mr. Klocko said. "The government has an interest in balancing the intensity and density of land use in this county."

But the bill bumps up against constitutional questions raised by a U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago. In Florence Dolan vs. City of Tigard, the court ruled that planners in the Portland, Ore., suburb had exceeded their power by asking the owner of a hardware store to donate 10 percent of her property in exchange for a building permit.

In a report to the Anne Arundel Trade Council's legislative affairs committee yesterday, attorney Frederick C. Sussman said the principles in the Dolan case might not apply to the bill because the legislation does not single out one project.

"This is a new wrinkle that I haven't seen before," said Mr. Sussman, who has worked on the legislation as the attorney for the Crofton Civic Association.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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