Lothian farm preserved

July 09, 2008|By Jasmine Jernberg and Steven Stanek | Jasmine Jernberg and Steven Stanek,Sun Reporters

Anne Arundel County has received state funding to preserve a 183-acre farm in Lothian and is on its way to getting money for two more properties in South County.

The state Board of Public Works has approved $2 million in funding for the $2.6 million purchase of an easement on the William Hall farm on Route 2, and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation is considering applications by two more farmers for 306 acres of rural property in Harwood.

The easement - essentially an agreement that allows the state to control the land, impose development restrictions and perform regular inspections - was reviewed by the board of the MALPF and the county, which will contribute $670,000 in matching funds. The easement funds will be spent at Hall's discretion. Hall was not available for comment.

The local purchase was part of a broader $21.7 million plan announced last week by Gov. Martin O' Malley to protect some 3,000 acres across the state. O'Malley chairs the Board of Public Works, which also includes the state Comptroller Peter Franchot and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.

The move was welcomed by County Executive John R. Leopold and Lothian community leaders who have sought to preserve the rural setting of Anne Arundel County's southern tip.

"I am very pleased with our progress in preserving our county's valuable farmland," said Leopold, who has made land preservation a priority of his administration. "Anne Arundel County is proud to be in partnership with the state in preserving, in perpetuity, our precious agricultural land and woodlands."

Last year, Leopold's administration spent $6.1 million to buy and preserve land in Lothian where a shopping center anchored by a Target store was planned. He also led efforts to preserve the 857-acre former Naval Academy Dairy Farm in Gambrills and secured 547 forested acres on the eastern half of the former Crownsville Hospital Center grounds for parkland.

The state is currently shopping the other half of that property to developers, though Leopold said the county would like to have control over it for a variety of uses, ranging from affordable housing to a home for war veterans.

The Hall farm is one of four Lothian properties the county had targeted for conservation. A settlement on a 122-acre farm on Pindell Road was reached last July, the owner of an 84-acre property on Old Solomon's Island Road reached a settlement in December, and Leopold said the county is anticipating a settlement on the purchase of a 107-acre farm in Lothian this month. The address of properties that have not reached a settlement are not disclosed, officials said.

If the two pending settlements go through, the county will have secured five properties since last July totaling 592 acres, said Frank Marzucco, the county's director of recreation and parks.

"That's pretty impressive from where I'm sitting," Marzucco said.

The new deals would bring a total of 12,674 acres under protection in Anne Arundel County through various state and local programs. Over half of that total was locked up during the administration of Leopold's predecessor, Janet S. Owens.

George Perry, president of the Lothian Civic Association, said the county's efforts prevented what could have potentially been a 12-home development that would have stressed the already overburdened infrastructure in the area.

"We strongly support the energy the administration has been putting in with this and past efforts," Perry said. "I'm pleased to see [Leopold] is keeping his campaign promises."



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