Members of two separate branches of Maryland's historic Carroll family have submitted plans to Howard County to sell the building rights they hold on several chunks of historic Doughoregan Manor to builders in other parts of the county, preserving the land for agriculture.
If approved by Howard County officials, the proposed sales would give developers the right to build on 237 acres of land elsewhere in the county, keep two large Doughoregan Manor tracts undeveloped, and bring in over $9 million for the Carroll descendents, based on the county's top price for prime preservation land.
The estate, all that's left of a 10,000-acre colonial plantation created by Charles Carroll of Carrolton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is still in family hands. His descendants are determined to preserve their privacy and keep the property for decades to come, but have said they need to raise millions of dollars to maintain and preserve the property and historic buildings.
The plan now before Howard officials would remove development rights from a 75-acre parcel on what is now called North Manor, where the 280-year old mansion sits among roughly 30 other historic buildings. It also would take away development rights from 162 acres of the 540-acre South Manor, owned by a different group of Carroll descendants.
Interest in the 900-acre northern property is intense, because of its historic value and because of the development potential at a time when the pace of growth is a major election issue.
Natalie Ziegler, a Carroll descendant and one of the owners of the South Manor, said her group is subdividing its land to preserve its value and to parcel it out to the various cousins, most of whom live elsewhere. Their plan, first outlined in February, is to preserve as much farmland as possible, while retaining rights to develop a few homes in future years.
"We're trying to split the land up. We're largely saving it for preservation," she said, noting that in addition to the 162-acre portion in the proposal, family members are placing 15-year no-development covenants on another 100 acres to protect each other.
Ziegler's group is operating separately from the three descendants who own the North Manor, which includes the historic buildings.
The proposals are part of a complex series of negotiations among various members of the Carroll family and county officials about the property, which sits between Route 108 and Frederick Road, along private Manor Lane.
County officials have said the Carrolls who own the North Manor want to avoid public ownership, financing or public access to the property.
Philip Carroll and his children, Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll, owners of the 892-acre northern portion of the estate due to lose historic preservation status in May 2007, still haven't revealed their full plans for their land. That will likely wait until after a new county government takes office in December, according to Marsha S. McLaughlin, county planning director.
Attempts to contact Philip Carroll's branch of the family went unanswered last week.
The northern portion could be developed for about 400 new homes under current zoning.
But county officials and preservationists praised the plans to preserve other parts of the property.
"I think it's a good move," McLaughlin said about the North Manor sale. "This will allow them to raise some dollars to go toward renovations. It doesn't impact any of the historic structures."
McLaughlin said last winter that the family wants to raise at least $20 million for repairs and ongoing maintenance, plus enough to guarantee ownership for years to come. Various ways of using public funds to help the family preserve the property and raise the funds they need were discussed in meetings over the past 18 months, but no proposal emerged.
Using the county's top price of $40,000 an acre as a guide, the sales currently under discussion for the North and South Manor properties could raise more than $3 million for Philip Carroll and his children - money that could be used to begin needed renovations. The South Manor sale could raise over $6 million, based on the same price gauge.
The development rights for the northern tract would be sold to a builder working on a Clarksville development off Route 108 called MacBeth Farms, according to county files. The South Manor's rights would go to land in Glenelg for the Edgewood Farms project between Roxbury and Dorsey Mill roads.
Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, praised the latest proposals.
"I think it's a good indicator that the Carrolls are able to use the tools available to put parts of the farm in preservation," she said. "I take it as a positive sign."
The two groups of relatives have behaved very differently. Both value their privacy, but the owners of the northern portion of the estate have refused to speak publicly about their plans, while owners of the South Manor have attended public meetings and explained their intentions openly.