Preservation effort gets new focus

Balto. County to look for ways to save farmland in densely populated areas

June 08, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

With so little farmland left around the Baltimore Beltway, Baltimore County is searching for ways to save what acreage remains.

The county has preserved $50 million worth of farmland since 1980, although county officials say most of it has been saved in northern communities where farmland is under less pressure from developers.

But the County Council last night agreed to begin focusing its preservation efforts on more densely populated areas.

The council passed a resolution asking county officials to look for ways to preserve farmland in the communities that lie near Interstate 695, along the waterfront and in the growing communities of White Marsh and Owings Mills.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, the Perry Hall Democrat who sponsored the resolution, said that state and county farm preservation programs have saved thousands of acres countywide.

But he said the effort has focused on saving farms in the county's far-flung northern communities, where zoning for residential development is so restrictive that farmers face limited pressure to sell.

He said the county should concentrate more of its efforts to save farmland in more congested communities, such as Bowleys Quarters, Back River Neck and Perry Hall, where farmers are under intense pressure to sell to development.

About 1,000 acres of farmland is at stake in his district alone, Gardina said.

State officials say preservation efforts have worked well.

Iva Frantz, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, said the state has purchased development rights to 13,054 acres from 118 farmers in Baltimore County since the state program began in 1977. Purchases are funded by taxes raised from the sales of farms and other real estate, she said.

Baltimore County officials say the county has purchased development rights to 905 acres from six farms since the county began a similar program in 1994.

State and county planners say that farmers in more urban areas, served by sewer and water, are not as eager to sell their development rights because of the potential value of the land.

"Usually they won't be coming in to us if they're in a sewer and water plan," Frantz said.

Gardina's resolution, passed unanimously, calls for county planning and zoning officials to look for ways to protect farms by changing zoning requirements within the county's Urban Rural Demarcation Line, a boundary that divides the county's rural communities from the urban areas with water and sewer service. The line parallels the Beltway.

George Perdikakis, director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, said that his office will look into Gardina's concerns.

"Everything that we can do to preserve farmland should be considered," Perdikakis said. "If he wants us to study it, why not study it?"

Pub Date: 6/08/99

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