Commissioners resist using land money to gain state aid

October 03, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners balked yesterday when asked to use $1 million of Carroll's agricultural land preservation money to attract millions more in state aid.

William Powel, the county's Agricultural Preservation Program administrator, suggested the commissioners set aside $500,000 this year and next year to enhance Carroll's chances of being included in the state's new Rural Legacy Program.

A commitment of local funds is not a requirement for participation in the state program, Powel told the commissioners yesterday, but it would make Carroll's application more attractive, he said.

The state plans to dole out roughly $138 million in Program Open Space money over the next five years to qualifying counties in an effort to preserve large tracts of agricultural and forest land.

Carroll officials, whose goal is to keep 100,000 of the county's rural acres out of development, believe participation in the state program would be a "a significant boost" toward achieving that goal.

Powel also suggested that the state might be more inclined to reward the county with Rural Legacy money if Carroll applies stricter environmental criteria to Rural Legacy applications than it does for the county's agricultural land preservation program.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, a farmer, found the proposal unsettling. "I'm real concerned about tree huggers taking this program over," he said.

Dell said he did not want to take money allocated to the county's farmland preservation program to use for Rural Legacy. He and Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown have set aside a portion of the property tax increase they voted last year for use in the land preservation program.

Brown said he also is leery about transferring those funds to the Rural Legacy program unless the agricultural land preservation board -- which reviews property owners' applications -- is given the same oversight for Rural Legacy applications.

The three commissioners voted unanimously to give the preservation board that power.

To qualify for Rural Legacy money, the county must apply before Jan. 30.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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