Carroll Co. must pay full Legacy pledge $1 million required despite smaller grant awarded by Maryland

June 30, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

When Carroll County applied for an $8 million state Rural Legacy land preservation grant to protect 4,000 acres in the Little Pipe Creek watershed, it sweetened the deal with the promise of $1 million in county matching funds.

Apparently, it was not sweet enough. The fast-growing county ended up with only $1.5 million, or one-sixth, of its request. Statewide, counties got about one-fourth of their requests.

What's more, the county learned late yesterday that the state is requiring that it meet the $1 million commitment it made in its original application -- even though the county is receiving the scaled-down version of its request.

William Powel, county agricultural preservation program director and administrator of the grant application, had planned to ask the County Commissioners to vote to approve the matching funds. But by late afternoon, the state informed the county that it did not have a choice.

"We don't have a decision to make," Powel said.

At least one of the commissioners supports spending matching funds. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the county should take advantage of every opportunity to protect farmland from development.

"I think it's time to seize the day and get the land [into the preservation program] as quickly as possible," Brown said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell tended to agree. "I don't think the commission would make a lot of people happy if we don't hold up our end" and provide matching funds, he said.

The $29 million Rural Legacy program is a central component of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative. That effort is designed to direct development to areas where it is existing and save undeveloped property elsewhere using preservation programs, such as agricultural preservation, easement donations, and Project Open Space -- which provides money for parks.

Rural Legacy, through voluntary sale of land and development rights to the government, targets large tracts of land that often have value not only as open space but also as historic and natural resource areas.

Carroll County is one of four counties that offered matching funds in the Rural Legacy applications. County officials in Baltimore, Worcester and Queen Anne's also promised local funds to support their proposals.

Carroll County proposed spending $9 million for easements on 4,000 acres in the Little Pipe Creek watershed, a 35,000-acre region on the western edge of the county.

But with the $1.5 million available from the state and $1 million in matching county funds, fewer than 1,000 acres will be preserved.

The county considered the watershed -- a prime area for land preservation.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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