Fork in the road for farm preservation Carroll County: Industrial rezoning won't hurt program, subdivision exemption could.

December 08, 1997

IS THERE AN apparent contradiction in Carroll County's goals of promoting farmland preservation and of rezoning agricultural land for industrial use? Between paying for permanent agricultural-use easements, while easing the way for small subdivisions to be built over rural acreage?

And how will these objectives fit in with the state's new Rural Legacy plan to protect more privately owned open space (beyond farmland) through purchase of easements?

These are difficult questions in crafting the future of the county's land use. The ability to apply common sense is what is needed most, not a rigid, tunnel-vision approach that creates more problems than it solves.

Consider the proposed rezoning of some 1,000 acres of agricultural land for industrial development. The conversion is needed to attract industry. Carroll has the least available industrial land in the Baltimore region, much of it in sites that are unattractive for business, and has the smallest industrial tax base.

With Carroll less than one-quarter of the way toward its goal of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland, it could be argued that industrial rezoning is a step in the wrong direction. But that ignores the reality that the earmarked areas are located next to industrial-zoned land, and are hardly prime prospects for agricultural easement purchases. And with two-thirds of the county now zoned for agriculture, the limited rezoning would FTC have minimal impact on farm preservation efforts.

The move to exempt small rural subdivisions from county adequate-facilities controls is more troubling, however. Most minor subdivisions in the county are created on agricultural-zoned land. This is an invitation to wasteful sprawl 00 development without concern for the public costs of schools, roads, emergency services and other infrastructure needs.

The plan to limit the number of new county building permits to 6,000 over six years could help, but it may stampede nervous farm owners to subdivide now. That wouldn't promote agricultural land preservation, or sensible land use.

For a growing county that cherishes its farm environment, while yearning for greater economic development, these contradictions in public policy will not easily be resolved. But the two goals are not mutually exclusive.

Pub Date: 12/08/97

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