- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) A new zoning law allowing small subdivisions to be built on land set aside for farming in Carroll County, Md. seems to directly oppose Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth initiative.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said she has no doubt the measure was designed to open more farmland to development.
"The reality is that you can take land you could never develop and use [the ordinance] to develop agricultural land," said Miss Gouge, who voted against it. "We could be making agricultural land wide open to development."
Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie said while she didn't know details of the ordinance, it "would certainly undermine our Smart Growth efforts."
"It promotes the exact opposite of Smart Growth principles by promoting development of agricultural land," she said.
The law, drafted by the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee, allows landowners to develop one residential lot for every three acres rather than for every 20 acres, as is normally required under agricultural zoning. Also under the ordinance, landowners can transfer their right to develop one lot on every three acres of conservation land often impossible to develop to land zoned for agriculture.
"This will draw the state's ire more than anything else this county has done lately," said Ross Dangel, an Eldersburg resident and member of the Freedom Area Citizens Council. "This could draw the state into local zoning."
Over the past three years, planners and public officials have turned to a Smart Growth policy fostered in Maryland and promoted nationwide by Mr. Glendening, as a solution to the problems of suburban sprawl.
It has developed into a national movement seeking alternatives to traditional suburban neighborhoods that have marched relentlessly across American farms and forests over the last half century.
John Frece, spokesman for the governor's Office of Smart Growth, said Carroll County's new law "seems contrary to the good record of farmland preservation that Carroll County has had in the past."
Bill Powel, who runs the county's farmland-preservation program, agreed. "I believe we are jeopardizing state certification of our agricultural-land preservation program and other sources of land-preservation fund," Mr. Powel wrote in a letter to the commissioners.
He further wrote that Carroll should delay implementing the ordinance until the commissioners and staff better understand the implications.
The county has placed about 35,000 acres of farmland in permanent preservation easements, but its goal is 100,000 acres during the next decade.
Commissioner Donald Dell and other supporters argue that the ordinance restores value to farmland without changing the permitted density of residential lots.
"The best way to preserve farmland is to allow the farmer to make a living," said Richard Owings, the county's bureau chief of development review, who will scrutinize any application for residential lots.
"Sooner or later, we are going to lose agricultural land because farmers can't make a living. This is happening nationwide," he said.
"Normally, a farmer does not want lots. He develops out of necessity. This can bail people out of debt and let them continue working their farms."

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