Steps for rural preservation Village designations, more farmland protection add to heritage.

May 27, 1998

EFFORTS TO expand preservation of Carroll's rural heritage got a boost this month with two recommendations of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission.

One would increase the amount of farmland protected from development to a total of nearly 46,000 acres, about halfway toward the stated goal of 100,000 acres preserved within the next two decades. The other would designate 35 unincorporated communities as official "rural villages" whose character would be protected under the county's Master Plan for future land use. They are residential areas with historical attributes.

While there's no indication that any of these hamlets is immediately threatened by massive subdivision, the official village appellation by the county commissioners before July 1 would qualify the locales for state funding of growth-related projects.

Under the state's official "smart growth" program to combat wasteful exurban sprawl, rural villages would be eligible for state money to build roads, water and sewer systems. But non-official rural villages would not be eligible, as of Oct. 1.

Indeed, the crossroads of Berrett, north of Sykesville, was reportedly dropped from the planning commission's recommended list because it did not appear to meet the state guidelines.

The county's farmland preservation program has proven highly successful, both because of the government's financial incentives and the citizenry's deep appreciation of its rich agricultural heritage. Increasing uncertainties of the farm industry have also played a recent role in land owners seeking government easements.

The planning body recommends placing another 1,600 acres in five-year protection districts, while waiting for the state's purchase of permanent easements against development on those lands. Some 20,000 acres of farmland in Carroll is being held in temporary agricultural districts. It will require state purchase of easements, or county funding, in order to remain forever as open agricultural acreage.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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