Ferguson plans bill to aid farmers They could create 6 lots, bypass rules on subdivisions

September 18, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson told county farmers last night that he wants to reintroduce a bill that would allow them to carve as many as six lots from their property without having to go through the county's subdivision process.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening vetoed a similar bill last spring.

The difference in his proposal, Ferguson told a crowd of more than 50 people at a Carroll County Landowners' Association meeting in Westminster, is that the bill would apply to farmers only.

The bill vetoed by the governor would have helped developers and builders as well as farmers, Ferguson said.

"I don't want rapid growth, but I cannot stand by -- and won't stand by -- and watch farmers taken for granted and hornswoggled," he said.

Ferguson's initial proposal last night was to allow farmers to develop up to six acres on a 120-acre parcel -- one acre for every 20 acres -- without having them subject to adequate facilities tests.

But members of the audience balked, saying the proposal should be one lot per 20 acres and that it should apply to conservation zones as well as agricultural zones. Ferguson did not object.

"The details can come from you guys," he said. "I'm trying to keep it very simple."

Keeping the bill simple and limiting it to farmers would make it virtually impossible for people not to support the bill, Ferguson said.

"If we put that forth, I don't think the governor in his right mind can veto that bill without looking like [he's] hurting farmers," he said. "And it would be hurting farmers. If either side seeks to complicate this, suspect their motives."

His goal, Ferguson told the audience, is "hopefully, to get something started."

The next step is to get the endorsement of fellow Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of the county General Assembly delegation, and others in the delegation, Republican and Democrat alike, Ferguson said.

"I would be flabbergasted if that didn't happen," he said.

Westminster farmer Jay Hull told Ferguson: "I thank you for standing up for private property rights."

A similar proposal last winter that affected more than farmers led to a land-use battle between local and state officials.

The bill, sponsored by Haines and passed by the General Assembly, was designed to overturn a Planning and Zoning Commission decision making minor subdivisions -- those of three lots or less -- subject to adequate facilities tests.

The decision, since rescinded, ended an 18-year-old policy and enraged Haines and other members of the county General Assembly delegation.

Haines, owner of a Westminster real estate business, said last winter that the planning commission's decision breached a 1978 promise to farmers that they would not have to go through the same process as developers when subdividing their land.

The governor vetoed the bill May 22, saying it would add to suburban sprawl and run counter to statewide proposals to manage growth that he is planning to bring before the legislature in the next session.

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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