Opening the floodgates

Fostering sprawl

Rezoning Rash land for development will hasten loss of farmland in Carroll

August 31, 1999

CARROLL COUNTY will be haunted for a long time by the disgraceful decision to rezone a family farm in the southwest area for big-money residential development.

It flies in the face of decades of county commitment to farmland preservation and directly imperils state funding for needed roads and sewers.

The 2-1 decision of the county commissioners is the first domino to fall, toppling Carroll's long-standing goal of preserving its farmland.

It sends a clear message to farmers: No need to keep their croplands, in spite of tax-preferential treatment, or to seek government payments to preserve their land if a developer will pay them more. The pell-mell pace of residential sprawl will continue.

County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier voted to rezone the 145-acre farm parcel owned by the Rash brothers, allowing construction of a 50-home golf course community. Julia W. Gouge courageously voted against the measure.

The two approving commissioners blatantly defied their own county planning staff, who found no legal basis for the rezoning. They also thumbed their noses at state officials who warned that it would affect county requests for infrastructure aid.

The Rash brothers had tried for years to get residential rezoning for their 400-acre farm west of Sykesville.

They greedily rejected suggestions to build only 24 new homes on the property -- a move that would have complied with farm zoning but yielded less cash. A decade later, they have finally won, although they might have been better had they developed the 24 homes in 1990 and invested the proceeds.

The loser is the entire county, especially sprawl-plagued South Carroll. It may take more than the spectre of Smart Growth restrictions to save Carroll from itself.

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