Md. funds sought for farmland protection

Rural Legacy money wanted for Liberty, Little Pipe areas

January 17, 2002|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners hope to win $2.75 million in state funding to enhance their efforts to protect farmland in the Liberty watershed, a sensitive environmental area facing development pressure.

The commissioners voted yesterday to apply for $5.6 million in state Rural Legacy money. About $2.85 million would be used to protect farmland in the Little Pipe Creek watershed. The remaining funds would aid preservation efforts in the Liberty watershed, an area the county calls the Upper Patapsco.

"There are a number of farms already preserved in that area," said Bill Powel, county preservation administrator. "If we receive state funding, we'll be able to strengthen our preservation efforts in the watershed."

This is the second year the county will apply for state dollars to protect farmland in the Upper Patapsco, an area between Routes 140 and 30 that encompasses about 15,000 acres and lies within a few hundred yards of Liberty Reservoir. The state denied Carroll's funding request last year.

Although the Upper Patapsco area drains into Liberty Reservoir, a source of drinking water for 1.8 million Marylanders, Carroll's application for Rural Legacy dollars could again get a cool reception in Annapolis this year. State officials disagree with Carroll County over a local zoning law that many say allows out-of-control development on the county's agricultural land.

Carroll also remains at odds with the metropolitan area over a long-standing watershed protection agreement, a pact among the metropolitan counties and Baltimore City that restricts development of land around the water supply. Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier contend the agreement infringes on the commissioners' land-use authority.

Since the Rural Legacy program's inception in 1998, Carroll has been awarded nearly $5 million in state funds. Carroll officials, who have committed $1 million in local funding to Rural Legacy efforts, said they hope to hear in the spring whether they have won additional funding.

Carroll has been a leader nationally in land preservation and has about 37,000 acres in perpetual programs, about one-third of its long-term goal of 100,000 acres.

In other business yesterday, the commissioners awarded a $28,099 contract to the Jacob France Center at the University of Baltimore to survey the county's work force. The survey will determine commuter destinations, occupations, education levels, job skills and related labor statistics - information that could attract business and industry.

The survey will be conducted by graduate students, who will call about 2,400 households in hopes of completing 800 questionnaires, said Denise Beaver, deputy director of the county's economic development office. Once the data are collected, the center's staff will analyze the results and present the commissioners with a final report in May.

Also yesterday, the commissioners voted to create a program that would allow prisoners at the detention center to attend their bail hearing via video camera, rather than appear in person before a court commissioner.

The new program will cost $52,413 to implement. The state has committed $46,317. The county will cover the remaining expenses, money that will be recouped in cost savings within two months, according to Steven D. Powell, county budget director.

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