Carroll property owners are entitled to "fair and just compensation" when changes in government policy affect land values, county lawmakers told local developers yesterday.
Federal, state and local governments have become so intrusive that "we can lose our property right across the nation," said State Sen. Larry E. Haines, owner of a Westminster real estate company, during a breakfast meeting of the Carroll chapter of the Home Builders' Association of Maryland.
Haines said local farmers weren't fairly compensated when the county changed its zoning laws in 1978, allowing development of only 1 acre per 20 acres of agricultural land. To keep that from happening again, Haines plans to introduce legislation next year allowing property owners to sue if their property loses value because of government actions such as rezonings or wetlands restrictions.
His desire to protect individual property rights prompted a controversial farmland bill he sponsored this year. If signed into law by the governor, the bill would allow farmers to develop four lots or less without having to pass Carroll's adequate facilities guidelines.
That had been the county's policy for the past 18 years until the county Planning Commission changed it last winter, Haines said.
The mayors of Hampstead, Manchester and Sykesville have joined County Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates in opposing the bill and urging Gov. Parris N. Glendening to veto it. But two of his Cabinet members -- Secretary of Business and Economic Development James T. Brady and Secretary of Agriculture Lewis R. Riley -- are urging him to sign it, Haines said.
"I predict the governor will sign" the bill by May 29, Haines said. "It's good legislation and it's necessary."
Haines and other members of the delegation "took a lot of heat on the bill because of a lot of misinformation in the press," he said. "Newspapers are trying to dictate public policy," but he and other members of the delegation are "very strong, pro-business advocates willing to take the heat," he said.
Most newspapers could do without two sections, he said: "The funnies -- for people who can't read, and editorials -- for people who can't think."
Despite what he perceived as a spate of adverse publicity, little public opposition was raised against his bill, Haines said. "In my office, no more than 20 people sent letters opposing it," he said.
Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Carroll Republican, said the bill had "been portrayed as a development-oriented piece of legislation, but that's ultimately inaccurate."
The bill would "not create any new rights, but would maintain the policy in effect for the past 18 years," he said. "It's a farmers' bill. It allows families to keep the family farm within the family" by selling off a small number of lots.
Getty accused the county Planning Commission of changing the zoning policy without a vote, debate, or public notification.
Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a Carroll Republican, said he and other members of the delegation are homebuilders' first line of defense in Annapolis, fighting for property rights that are "God-given, not determined by government."
He asked the builders to remember that, especially in the 1998 election.
"We go off to war three months a year," he said. "We're down there to fight, playing for keeps, fighting to win. There are some [in the General Assembly] who act against you on a daily basis. You have to know who your friends are. The Carroll County delegation is very much your friend."
Pub Date: 5/17/96