Dell to describe preserving farmland

Counties' association is holding annual summer convention

August 19, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's much-praised plan to preserve farmland will be among the topics discussed this week during a statewide gathering of county government officials in Ocean City.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell plans to speak about Carroll's efforts to protect 100,000 acres of farmland by 2020 at the Maryland Association of Counties annual summer convention. More than 600 government officials are expected to attend the three-day event, which begins today.

"It's part of the process," Dell said of the speech he is scheduled to give tomorrow afternoon. "We pass along information in the panels and workshops. We gain by listening to people from other parts of the state, and hopefully they learn something from us."

Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier, who are members of the MACo legislative committee, will also attend. They left for the convention yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

For many local governments, agricultural preservation remains a divisive subject. County officials must often struggle to balance the need to protect farmland with the demands of development.

In Carroll, county officials are studying the issue as part of their review of a proposed master plan for growth and development. The plan would direct development to designated growth areas, rezone five properties to foster economic development and set goals for preserving farmland.

The commissioners can accept or reject the proposed plan, but cannot amend it. They recently began reviewing the document, a process that is expected to take about four months.

During their first public discussion of the plan July 12, the commissioners ordered county planning staff to gather information on a strategy that could help Carroll preserve 3,750 acres of farmland each year.

Known as transferable development rights, the program could be a powerful tool to help the county reach its annual quota. The program would allow builders to increase the density of homes in one area by preserving rural land in another. Builders would compensate farmers for the development potential of their land.

Other convention sessions will address a wide range of government concerns, from high-tech training to transportation infrastructure. The theme of the convention is "Revving Maryland's Economic Engines." More than 80 speakers will take part in 23 sessions.

This is not the first year Carroll County will take center stage at the convention. Last year, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown spoke about Carroll's residential growth-control ordinance. The measure limits residential building, allowing the commissioners to direct development to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate and restrict it elsewhere.

MACo was established in the 1930s to represent the interests of counties before state and federal governments. MACo's members are elected officials of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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