Chambers' farm may gain state protection

Planning panel wants historic acres placed on preservation list

May 19, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A historic Carroll County farm that belonged to former Communist Whittaker Chambers -- a player in one of the most sensational spy cases of the McCarthy era -- received preliminary approval for agricultural preservation yesterday.

The 202-acre farm now owned by Chambers' son, John Chambers, was among nine properties -- totaling more than 1,000 acres -- the county planning commission recommended be included in the agricultural preservation district.

The Chambers' farm drew national attention in 1948, when Chambers dramatically produced microfilm from a hollowed-out pumpkin that purportedly tied former State Department official Alger Hiss to Soviet agents. The "Pumpkin Papers" led to Hiss' conviction for perjury.

The 40-acre portion of the farm where the famous pumpkin grew is no longer owned by the Chambers' family. It is owned by state Sen. George W. Della Jr. of Baltimore, who last year made it eligible for preservation, although he has not sold the development rights.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the county commissioners approve the nine farms and forward them to the state, with six farms approved earlier.

The farms, totaling 1,015.4 acres, are on their way to becoming agricultural preservation districts, a step that makes the landowners eligible to sell development rights to the state and prevents development of that land for at least five years.

"The only thing the landowner gets is they are eligible to apply to sell an easement if they wish, but they're not required to," said William Powel, director of the county's agricultural preservation program.

The land stays in preservation unless the landowner asks to remove it after the five years are up.

A national leader

Carroll, with Montgomery County, is one of the leaders nationwide in agricultural preservation. With 28,063 acres permanently preserved through the purchase of easements, Carroll has more acres than any other county in the state placed in the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

Montgomery County, which has used additional means, has more total acres of preserved farmland, Powell said.

Most acreage since '90

Powel gave the planning commission a summary of preservation districts this year and last. Fifteen farms -- 1,910 acres -- will go to the state for approval in July, pending county commissioners' expected approval after a public hearing May 26.

That is the most acreage the county has preserved in one year since 1990, Powel said.

Last year, the county entered 1,845 acres into preservation, he said.

The farms recommended for approval yesterday were approved last month and this month by the Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board. They are:

79.24 acres owned by Geary E. Meyers at 3449 Old Taneytown Road in Taneytown.

202.31 acres owned by John Chambers at 446 E. Sawmill Road in Westminster.

172 acres owned by Michael P. Walsh at 828 Wesley Road in Finksburg.

43.31 acres owned by William O. Fritz at 315 N. Springdale Road in Westminster.

140.36 acres owned by Deborah F. Gwynne at 4041 N. Stone Road and another 148.02 acres owned by Gwynne south of North Stone Road, in Taneytown.

103.66 acres owned by Wilma E. Harman at 3201 Black Rock Road in Manchester.

81.5 acres owned by Carolyn L. Leister, 2020 Hampstead-Mexico Road in Manchester.

45 acres owned by Foggy Bottom Farms Inc., north of St. Paul Road in Hampstead.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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