Letter heartens farmland bill foes Negative comments from governor called 'preview' of a veto

April 30, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Opponents of a controversial Carroll County farmland development bill are hailing a letter from Gov. Parris N. Glendening as a preview to a veto.

"Senate Bill 649 sends the wrong message to developers," the governor wrote in an April 22 letter to Joseph H. Mettle, a county planning commissioner.

"I share your concern about the potential impact of this legislation on development in rural areas," Mr. Glendening wrote. "It allows a significant amount of new home construction to occur without considering its potential impact on schools, roads and other public facilities and services which the state helps to fund."

The legislation -- passed at the behest of Carroll's state lawmakers over the objection of the Board of County Commissioners and other local officials -- would allow county farmers to develop up to four lots without having to prove that public facilities were adequate to handle the growth. It also would exempt some small subdivisions from adequate-facilities review.

Before deciding whether to sign the bill, the governor has asked the state environment and planning departments to review it. Both agencies opposed the measure.

Florence Beck Kurdle, chairwoman of the state Economic Growth, Resource Protection and Planning Commission, called the bill "inimical to both sensible facilities management and fiscal prudence."

In the meantime, the governor's office has been besieged with veto requests by letter, phone, fax and e-mail.

Grant S. Dannelly, another Carroll planning commissioner, calls the letter "a preview of the coming veto attraction."

The governor wrote that the bill "undermines the efforts of Carroll County to direct growth to appropriate areas."

Mr. Glendening will sign a number of local bills today, but SB 649 is not among them. It might not come before him until May 23, the last scheduled day of bill signing, or he could veto it at any time, a spokesman said.

"I suspect a decision has not been made," said Del. Ellen L. Willis, the only Democrat and the only opponent of the bill in the county's six-member State House delegation.

Sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Haines, the county delegation chairman and the owner of a Westminster real estate company, the bill originally exempted up to six lots in agricultural areas. An amended version, passed on the last day of the General Assembly, reduced the number of lots and included a "sunset clause," limiting it to two years.

In 1978, rezoning changed the building lot size in agricultural areas from 1 to 20 acres. To appease farmers for their lost equity, the county promised to expedite their lots through development review.

The county followed the policy until recently, when crowding at schools and traffic congestion became more severe.

Mr. Haines has said he sponsored the bill to ease the plight of farmers who count on land equity to finance their businesses or their retirements.

Pub Date: 4/30/96

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