Panel approves purchase of farm

104-acre property could provide space for events at facilities

July 02, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Looking to the expansion of two of the county's most popular attractions, the county commissioners approved yesterday the purchase of a 104-acre family farm behind Carroll County's agriculture center and farm museum outside Westminster.

The Gesell farm -- on Route 27 to the west of the two facilities -- could provide the center and museum with direct access to the state road, and more land for horse shows, the 4-H Fair, the Maryland Wine Festival and other events throughout the year.

The purchase would preserve what little agricultural land remains in the immediate area.

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell voted to buy the property for $600,000. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge was not present for the vote. The sale is expected to be final in the next 60 days.

In voting for the purchase, Frazier said the land would be used "for future expansions and a possible road connection that would gain [the facilities] access to Route 27."

The property won't be used soon because plans to expand either facility onto the farm have been nothing more than talk. In the short term, the land will most likely be rented out for farming.

But during crowded events, the land might be used temporarily.

`That would be OK'

"If they needed it for parking, that would be OK," Frazier said.

Officials from the agriculture center and the farm museum have been eyeing the farm for months.

In March, members of the Carroll County Agriculture Commission, which advises the county commissioners on farm-related issues, supported buying the farm before developers do.

Ag Center officials said the property would also help provide better access for center visitors. The only route to the Ag Center is Smith Avenue, a residential road that connects to Route 32 about a half-mile from the center.

The Ag Center is a private, nonprofit organization with a board of trustees made up of representatives from several farm groups and clubs, such as Carroll County Farm Bureau, the Pomona Grange and 4-H.

The 13-acre center is expected to break ground in August, after the 4-H Fair, on a $3.4 million expansion on land it owns now. The project has received three state grants totaling $700,000.

The Ag Center board hopes for more state grants in the next few years, but might be able to build the project using short-term loans from the county.

Although members of the center's board of trustees have said that they were interested in buying the farm, the center had no financial resources to do so.

The adjacent 140-acre Carroll County Farm Museum, which allows visitors to experience the workings of a 19th-century family through tours, classes and demonstrations, might also need growing room, said manager Dottie Freeman. Though the museum's board of directors had not discussed the property acquisition, Freeman expected it would offer many advantages for the museum.

`Will be an asset'

"I'm sure in the future it will be an asset," Freeman said.

Freeman said that the museum might be able to use the land to build accommodations for visitors taking blacksmithing and tinsmithing classes.

Like the Ag Center, the museum could also use access to Route 27. During the Fourth of July celebration, more than 15,000 people are expected, leading to clogged streets and snarled traffic.

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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