Farmland rezoning plan to be discussed tonight More-restricted land has higher sales price, Valleys study says

April 23, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

As the Baltimore County Planning Board prepares for a hearing tonight on a proposal to rezone 12,000 acres of farmland, a prominent citizens group has released a study showing that land with the county's most restrictive zoning is worth more than land with fewer restrictions.

The study goes to the heart of farmers' concerns about the proposed zoning change that could reduce the number of homes allowed on the land by 30 percent -- from about 2,300 to about 1,600.

Some farmers say the down-zoning proposed by Planning Board Chairman Phillip A. Worrall in the northern section of the county would rob them of their land's equity. But the preliminary finding of the Valleys Planning Council asserts that the farmers may have nothing to worry about.

The community group studied the sales of agricultural land between 1985 and 1995. It found that land with the most restrictive RC-2 farm zoning actually sold for more than land with less restrictive RC-4 watershed protection zoning. On RC-2 land, approximately one house can be built per 50 acres; on RC-4 land about one house can be built per 5 acres.

"I knew of so many RC-2 parcels that had gone for huge amounts," said John Bernstein, director of the Valleys council. "I was casting around to find a way to judge this equity issue."

The group studied the sale of unimproved parcels of 10 acres or more in the agriculture preservation areas. Of 154 parcels sold, RC-2 land brought an average of $7,097 per acre and RC-4 land brought $6,282 per acre.

Although the group has submitted its findings to local economists to check results, some farmers said they are not surprised by what the study showed.

"The person who makes the money on RC-4 land is the developer," said Daniel W. Colhoun, an Upperco farmer, adding that the study "is shedding a lot of daylight on a misunderstood situation."

Real estate broker Herbert Davis noted that location, size, topography, soil and neighbors are as important as zoning in determining a property's value.

But Baltimore County Farm Bureau President Lloyd Reynolds still questions whether RC-2 land figures were skewed by some unusually expensive properties.

The planning board's hearing on the proposed farmland changes and other rezoning petitions in the 3rd Councilmanic District will be at 7: 30 p.m. today at Owings Mill High School. Sign-up for speakers begins at 6 p.m.

Pub Date: 4/23/96

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