"They just saved me my farming career and saved me millions of dollars," he said.

Cissel has been an outspoken critic of the state bill, claiming that it would have put him out of business if his property were designated as Tier IV, thus eliminating his development rights and cutting the value of his land in half.

The bill did allow farmers to apply to be grandfathered to preserve their development rights by July 1, but Cissel said starting down that path this summer may have cost him $90,000 for preliminary studies on his property.

"In farming that's a hard pill to swallow," he said.

Cissel said he's unsure if he will be repaid that money now that his land will be in Tier III.

By having farmers such as Cissel pull out of the grandfathering process, Fox estimates the county has the potential to save about 1,200 acres from potential development caused by SB 236.

"Right there gives you a pretty good idea of the importance of what we're doing," Fox said.

Council member Calvin Ball said the council's decision "respects and celebrates" the county's longstanding commitment to agriculture preservation while following SB 236 which allows each jurisdiction to create its own map.

"I think that we balanced the interest of our constituents in accordance with SB 236 and created a map that was Howard Count-specific," he said.

Watson said she voted against the proposed map for two reasons.

She believes the council unfairly treated three properties in its tier designations and that the administration's map was better from the "environmental perspective."

The Sisters of Bon Secours and Franciscan Friars properties, in Ellicott City, and the University of Maryland Farm, in Clarksville, should have been Tier III instead of Tier IV, Watson said, because they are unpreserved parcels.

Those three properties were designated as Tier IV in both the administration's map and the map approved by the council. Watson questioned why the council took unpreserved farmland out of Tier IV while leaving these three properties in Tier IV for its map.

"I just felt the logic they used on those three parcels was arbitrary," Watson said.

New zone on hold

In other action Monday:

• The council unanimously voted to table the proposed Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) District intended to allow property owners more flexibility in developing property by allowing zoning changes for parcels of land as small as five acres.

• The council unanimously approved amending the county zoning regulations to allow commercial solar facilities as a conditional use in the rural conservation and rural residential zoning districts. Fox, who works for Constellation Energy, abstained from the vote.

Bith Energy, a Baltimore-based energy engineering and technical services consulting firm, has asked for the amendment allowing them to build a 50- to 60-acre solar farm on Nixon's Farm in West Friendship. Once completed, Nixon's Farm will become the first county farm to generate solar electricity sold directly to an energy company.