Smith Farm issue prompts more mystery signs

October 21, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

A question about of the future of the Smith Farm appeared over the weekend along Route 175, which bisects the 300-acre tract.

Five staggered signs in the median read, "Just ahead 300 acres. Will build to suit. Suit to whom? Friends of Smith Park and Wildlife Sanctuary."

Who is responsible for these signs and others like them, which have appeared in the last several weeks, is not known.

Since Elizabeth C. "Nancy" Smith, the property's owner, died in February, dozens of politicians, area residents and preservationists have proposed turning her property -- estimated to be worth $7.7 million -- into a park.

At least three groups have been formed to support that idea -- one by area residents, another by the Columbia Council and a third by county officials -- while ad hoc committees of other organizations are also debating the property's future.

Bill Gray, chairman of the Smith Farm committee for Oakland Mills village, said he hopes to bring together residents and county officials to plan for the property's future.

"There are a number of people who are interested in the property that are putting the signs up," Gray said. "I think it's kind of a creative way of drawing people's attention it."

Ronald Ledford, who lives in Oakland Mills and heads Neighbors of the Smith Farm -- a group that costs $50 to join -- is holding a meeting this week to discuss how to ensure that the farm's development does not affect the value of the surrounding property. The group will meet at 7: 30 p.m. Thursday at the East Columbia library.

Representatives of three village centers -- Oakland Mills, Owen Brown and Long Reach -- are meeting next week with county officials at The Other Barn to discuss the farm's future.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker and state representatives have written letters to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, asking for $4 million in fiscal year 1998 to buy the land. The $4 million is about half what the land probably will cost.

In the past few weeks, Ecker has met with the county's legislative delegation and three national conservation groups to discuss the possible financing of a purchase of the 300 acres with a mixture of public and private funds.

Because Smith never married and had no children, the land reverts to two of her father's heirs, Carolyn L. Smith of Baltimore and Tabi Williamson of Eureka, Calif.

It is unknown what the two plan to do with the property.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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