Carroll approves applications for rural preservation efforts

Commissioners await OK from state officials

August 06, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners yesterday took the first step toward their goal of preserving 1,000 acres along Little Pipe Creek, near the historic towns of Union Bridge and New Windsor.

The three-member Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved seven applications to the state's Rural Legacy program. It is expected to take the state's rural legacy and public works boards about two months to review the documents.

Approval by state officials would give the county commissioners permission to spend about $1.4 million to protect 634 acres in the Little Pipe Creek watershed, a 35,000-acre area on the western edge of the county. Carroll set aside $2.5 million for the preservation effort this year -- $1.5 million in state funds and $1 million in local dollars.

"The county would like to preserve the green belt around New Windsor," said William Powel, who oversees Carroll's preservation efforts. "If these applications are approved, it would help us reach that goal."

The $29 million Rural Legacy program, now in its second year, is part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative. The program was designed to protect land that might not qualify for other preservation programs. Landowners in selected areas may sell their development rights to a land trust or local government.

In Carroll, rural legacy funds are only available to landowners who have development rights to sell. The restriction prevents people who own "remainders" -- land left after all permitted residential lots have been developed -- from participating.

Though homes cannot be built on remainders, churches or other nonresidential structures could be permitted. Purchasing the easements on the property would prevent such development.

Powel has said the restriction might be lifted after the county addresses the needs of people who have development rights.

This year, 17 property owners asked the county to buy their development rights, Powel said. Of those, 13 landowners were offered an average of $2,300 per acre for easements on about 1,150 acres. Six of them have not decided whether to accept the county's proposal. They have until Sept. 1 to make up their minds. Sales transactions on the applications approved yesterday could be completed in four months, Powel said.

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