Baltimore Co. farm preservation may be hampered

August 08, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A decision by the Baltimore County government shifting $2 million from its agricultural preservation program to school construction will be a setback to the effort to save the dwindling supply of farmland from development.

"It's going to have an impact. To what extent, we need to assess it," said George G. Perdikakis, director of the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

The County Council voted Monday night to move the money -- with another $21 million -- from bond requests for various programs to boost spending on school projects without increasing the $137.5 million in borrowing that voters will be asked to approve in November.

Unless money is added next spring, the farm program would receive only $1 million between July 1, 1997, and July 1, 1999, for buying development rights to county farms. Perdikakis said the county has $3 million in hand for that purpose from earlier bond issues and state grants.

Baltimore County has operated one of the state's most successful agricultural preservation programs, spending money to match the state's program to save farms.

Even so, the county lost more than a fourth of its farmland from 1978 to 1992, and has been trying to find new ways to encourage farmers to sell their development rights and preserve their land.

Wallace S. Lippincott Jr., head of the county's farm preservation program, was on vacation and unaware of the council's decision, Perdikakis said.

The county had hoped to increase its money for buying development rights with a $3 million bond issue, with an eye on the dwindling amount of state money available for farm preservation.

The state's farm preservation board learned in April that it would have only about $7.8 million -- about $1 million less than expected -- to buy development rights to farms throughout Maryland this year.

Because county land is so expensive, the state and county have been able to preserve only a few Baltimore County farms a year.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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