Seven descendants of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll have outlined plans to divide 540 acres they own on the southern portion of Howard County's Doughoregan Manor, while relatives who own the historic mansion are trying to raise millions of dollars to repair and preserve their larger portion of the estate.
The 540 acres, called "South Manor," belong to six Carroll cousins and one older relative who want to divide it into seven parcels. That will allow the five who don't live on the property to sell some development rights and build a few homes on other parcels to obtain cash.
Two 15-year easements intended to further inhibit development will help preserve the land, which is accessible only by private Manor Lane.
"I have a vested interest in preventing development," said John L. Carroll Jr., one of the seven. He wants to build a new home for his wife and baby near the historic 1830 Manor Lane residence called Stone House where his family lives on the 2,000-acre Doughoregan Manor estate.
Carroll explained that his group includes six cousins - two groups of three Carroll siblings - and his aunt, Carter Ziegler. She and the senior John L. Carroll are the sister and brother of Philip A. Carroll, who, with his two children, owns the 892-acre portion of Doughoregan Manor that contains the historic 20-room, two-story manor house and chapel and a cluster of several dozen other buildings.
The Carroll family's history in Maryland dates to the 17th century. The father of the signer of the Declaration - also named Charles Carroll - built the first brick house on Spa Creek in Annapolis, now known as Carroll House.
Doughoregan Manor was built about 1720 and was the longtime home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, whose father built the mansion. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the rarest historic properties in the nation, a large plantation farm owned by the same family that built it.
About 1,400 acres is under a 30-year state historic easement due to expire in May 2007. The estate, which once totaled 17,000 acres, is between Frederick Road and Route 108 along Manor Lane.
Philip D. Carroll and his sister Camilla - who are the children of Philip A. Carroll and are not part of the seven involved in the South Manor deal - have proposed selling development rights on about 600 acres for up to $24 million. They would develop about 200 acres closest to Centennial Lane to raise money to renovate and preserve the buildings while maintaining family ownership for decades.
That proposal is undergoing public scrutiny. Meanwhile, the South Manor plan to divide 540 acres was outlined by John L. Carroll Jr. at a Howard County Historic District Commission meeting Thursday night.
"We've spent about three years negotiating a [land] division plan that everybody likes. We want to divide it up so that everybody has a piece of the pie," he said.
Neither Preservation Howard County President Mary Catherine Cochran nor county planners objected.
"They're really not interested in developing anything quickly. They just want to make sure the estate is settled," said the county's planning director, Marsha S. McLaughlin. "I hope we will see preservation of a very significant property."
Michael D. Walczak, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society and a commission member, congratulated Carroll. "I applaud your efforts to withstand all the pressure there is to develop," he said during the briefing.
Carroll made clear to the county's historic commission members that his group's plan isn't connected to his relatives' proposals for their larger, more northern property.
"I've got nothing to do with that. They pretty much do their thing, and we do our own," said Carroll, 42, a psychiatric social worker.
He said he has lived in Stone House, which might once have been a farm manager's home, for three years. Under the plan, he would keep that property on a 57-acre parcel.
"For all of its antique charm, it only has one bathroom," he said, and that is in a wooden two-story addition built around 1905. His family is cramped and wants to build a new house near the Stone House, which might then be rented or inhabited by his mother-in-law, he said.
The subdivision plan does not prevent more development, however. Carroll said the hope is to use a provision of county zoning law to sell developers the right to build 38 homes elsewhere in the county, permanently preserving the largest of the parcels, a mostly wooded 123-acre tract east of Manor Lane.
Seven homes could be built on a panhandle-shaped, 75-acre parcel just north of Open Run Road, west of Manor Lane. Homes could rise on two parcels totaling 148 acres near The Preserve, an estate subdivision off Centennial Lane, Carroll and McLaughlin said.
But Carroll said he and his cousin, Natalie Ziegler, hope their arrangements would prevent development near either of their homes on the estate.