Edge sought in rural program Baltimore County pledges $3.25 million to state committee

Four proposals made

March 17, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Fighting nearly every other county in Maryland for some of the $29 million the state has set aside to protect rural areas, Baltimore County announced yesterday that it would contribute $3.25 million if the state selected one of the county's four land-conservation proposals.

County officials made the offer to the state's Rural Legacy Advisory Committee, which met at the Patuxent Research Refuge to hear presentations from supporters of seven of the 20 proposals vying for funding by July 1.

The presentations ranged from simple pleas from a small conservation group in Cecil County to a musical slide show by the proponents of the Piedmont Rural Legacy Area, which straddles Baltimore and Harford counties.

George G. Perdikakis, director of Baltimore County's Department Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation, said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger agreed over the weekend to come up with the local funding, hoping to give the county an edge.

Perdikakis said the county is eager to get the money because the program, by buying the development rights from the land owners, assures that land will be permanently preserved. "The most important thing is permanency," he said.

Yesterday, the advisory committee -- which includes representatives of agriculture, environmental and business interests -- peppered the presenters with questions about their proposals.

They sought information about individual counties' commitments to land preservation, the viability of the proposals and the willingness of nearby municipalities to receive the growth that otherwise would have taken place in those rural areas.

Baltimore County, with no incorporated municipalities, was the subject of one of the more amusing exchanges of the day when committee member Robert F. Stahl Jr. asked, "Would Baltimore City consider being one of your receiving areas?"

Jack Dillon, director of the Valleys Planning Council, who presented a plan to preserve 1,600 acres in the Piney Run watershed, responded dryly, "I've thought for a long time that was a good idea."

Much of Baltimore County's sprawl is due to thousands of families leaving Baltimore City. And Baltimore County, with four Rural Legacy proposals, has more than any other county in the competition.

In addition to the Piney Run plan, Baltimore County supports the Piedmont plan, one in Long Green Valley, and another along the county's waterfront.

The Rural Legacy Advisory Committee committee questioned the fairness of the request from backers of the Piedmont plan, which is seeking more than $23 million to preserve 7,819 acres in Harford and Baltimore counties.

"Do you think it's realistic for the state to put 75 percent of its money in one plan?" asked committee member William Hussmann.

"Do we expect to get $23 million? Of course not," responded Deborah Bowers, who presented the proposal. "But we wanted to let you know what we need to get the job done."

Sponsors for 12 of the 20 Rural Legacy proposals have made their plea to the committee. Another meeting will be held April 6.

The advisory committee will visit each of the proposed sites and make its recommendations to the Rural Legacy Board. That board then will select the winners and send its decisions to the Board of Public Works, which must approve the projects before July 1.

The Rural Legacy Program is part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth Initiative, which seeks to preserve land by buying the development rights from the property owners. The voluntary program aims to work with other land conservation efforts to protect up to 200,000 acres by the year 2011.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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