4 rural areas proposed for preservation State program will pay owners to forgo development

$24 million to be awarded

Groups targeting thousands of acres in Baltimore County

November 07, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County groups have targeted thousands of acres of farms and woodland for preservation, in preparation for a statewide competition that will award millions of dollars to landowners who forgo development.

The conservation groups are working on four proposals -- ranging from waterfront on the east side to fields in the north -- for Maryland's new Rural Legacy Program. The program seeks to save 50,000 to 75,000 acres in the next five years by purchasing development rights from property owners in selected land-preservation areas.

Program administrators expect to receive 20 to 30 applications for the $24 million to be awarded next summer. The program, part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative -- is designed to preserve land that might not be saved by other conservation programs.

Baltimore County groups hope the state will purchase the development rights for acreage within four large conservation areas in eastern and northern parts of the county.

One area would include the Long Green Valley; one would reach from Interstate 83 to the Carroll County line; one would be east of York Road and north of Paper Mill Road, reaching into Harford County; and one would include 2,400 acres along the Back River Neck Peninsula.

Property owners could choose not to sell their development rights, even if their land lay within one of the chosen preservation areas.

"We have had such strong interest from the citizens, and that is to our advantage," said Wallace S. Lippincott Jr., administrator of the county's agriculture preservation program. "And we have so many land trusts, and that is another plus."

Applications for the program will be judged on the significance of the properties, the willingness of property owners to participate and the extent to which nearby lands are preserved.

H. Grant Dehart, director of Program Open Space for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said he expects 15 counties to submit at least one Rural Legacy candidate. The number of areas chosen will depend on how expensive the development rights are in those areas, he said.

Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties also are preparing to submit proposals to the Rural Legacy Board by the Jan. 30 deadline. Harford plans to join Baltimore County on a proposed area that straddles the border of the two counties.

Deborah Bowers, chairwoman of the committee developing the Harford-Baltimore County proposal, said the group has been working since January to define the area's boundaries and to solicit support from property owners.

"We believe this area of Baltimore County has special rural and environmental assets and should receive funding under the Rural Legacy Program," she said.

Jack Mowl, a proponent of the waterfront area that would preserve parts of the Back River Neck Peninsula, called it "a pristine, contiguous forest area that is the buffer between highly built-up area of Essex and Middle River and the bay."

Cathy Ebert, president of the Long Green Valley Conservancy, which favors a Long Green Valley conservation area, said her area includes farms, historic homes and sensitive streams. "Rural Legacy could really be a wonderful way to help us," she said.

The Valleys Planning Council, an influential land-preservation group, will be fighting for an area in the northwestern part of the county.

"This part of the area captures all the things that Rural Legacy is looking for: productive agriculture, woodlands, part of our water supply system. It's picture perfect," said Jack Dillon, director of the council.

Lippincott said the county is unlikely to favor one proposal over the others, but rather endorse all four. "It's going to be very competitive," he said.

Pub Date: 11/07/97

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