`Rural village' status sought

Designation change could open door to preservation funds

April 19, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Finksburg residents would like the state to change their planning designation from a community planning area (CPA) to a rural village to be eligible for farmland preservation grants and other money.

It sounds like semantics but, for many residents, the difference is vital to maintaining quality of life in the unincorporated area along Route 140. Residents have said a community planning area is an invitation to development.

"Rural village designation would free up state rural legacy funds to preserve farms in Finksburg," said Neil Ridgely, spokesman for the Finksburg Planning Area Council, referring to state money used to preserve land with historic, environmental and agricultural significance.

"We want the farms preserved in contiguous tracts, where there is development pressure now," he said.

Classifying areas such as Gamber and Carrollton as rural villages is a state mechanism, part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth plan to direct development to existing communities and away from agricultural and forested areas.

"There are funds available for farm preservation that we cannot get now because we are a community planning area," said Donald Hoffman, Finksburg council president. "We are certainly more akin to a rural village. CPA does not fit Finksburg any more. We have beautiful farmlands that cannot be preserved because of the designation."

Carroll County created 10 community planning areas nearly 30 years ago with the intent of directing growth to those eight municipalities and the unincorporated areas of Finksburg along Route 140 and Freedom in South Carroll.

While Freedom's population has tripled to nearly 30,000, Finksburg has not grown as significantly, mainly because it lacks public water and sewer service. Recent census figures put the population at about 18,000.

"The commissioners have long recognized, at least informally, that Finksburg cannot develop as rapidly as the other CPA's because of the water and sewer issues," Hoffman said. "We are just asking for a formal designation."

The council met last month with county and state planners in what Hoffman called "an excellent conversation."

"The Maryland Department of Planning told us we could still be designated a rural village," he said.

As the county works to revise its master plan for Finksburg - with input from residents - the designation is likely to change, said Matthew W. Simmont, county planner. "The CPA could become just the surrounding Route 140 corridor," he said.

Finksburg has about 200 acres of industrial land, nearly all of it surrounding the intersection of Routes 140 and 91. Most of that land would remain in the CPA, Simmont said.

"Any new industrial and commercial development would be encouraged in that corridor," Simmont said. "This would also be a priority funding area. Such a change would not separate Finksburg in any way."

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