With state help, Balto. Co. buys development rights to five tracts of farmland Conserving land linked to preserving agriculture

November 06, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A historic northern Baltimore County farm -- known as much for legal battles over who owns it as for its heritage -- is one of five that will be conserved under the state's agricultural preservation program.

Development rights to Conclusion Farm, a 157-acre grain-producing farm in the 1200 block of Gerber Lane off Interstate 83 in Sparks, an adjoining 35-acre parcel and three other north county farms totaling 418 acres are being purchased for $2.1 million in state and county funds.

The five farms are next to larger tracts under protection. That fact pleases program administrator Wallace S. Lippincott Jr. and County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican whose district contains four of the tracts.

They say the idea is to keep farming viable by preserving the largest possible contiguous tracts to minimize conflicts between suburban housing and farms.

"We're trying to get blocks of land together," McIntire said, adding that he thinks price-per-acre should be secondary to location.

That strategy doesn't always work. Lippincott noted that 18 other county farms that applied to sell development rights this year were rejected by the state for lack of money.

While roughly 1,000 acres a year of county farmland are being preserved from development, an equal amount is being bulldozed by builders.

Since 1980, when the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation began, 12,326 acres of Baltimore County land have been preserved, Lippincott said.

But during the same period, 18,000 acres were lost to development.

The best-known of the latest acquisitions is Conclusion Farm, which has been cultivated since 1810, Lippincott said.

The original farmhouse is being restored by a group of owners who bought the land in 1995.

A total of 184 acres on the Ross Valley Farm in the 400 block of Piney Hill Road east of I-83 in Hereford was the county's priority for acquiring development rights because of concerns about now-scuttled plans to build 33 homes to replace horse breeding and training facilities.

The property is across I-83 from another 800 acres preserved for farming by earlier purchases and donations.

Cold Bottom Farms is a 108-acre property in the 800 block of Millers Lane, visible east of I-83 south of Parkton. It is part of a 3,000-acre grain operation and backs to Gunpowder Falls State Park.

The last tract is the 126-acre Elmore farm in the 2900 block of Garrett Road, White Hall, near the Harford County line.

It is leased to One-Straw Farm, the second-largest organic vegetable farm in Maryland, and is next to 2,900 acres preserved from development, Lippincott said.

To make the purchases possi- ble, the state provided $1.3 million and the county put up $802,000. The purchases received final approval from the County Council last month.

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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