A tree in this western Carroll County community has been chosen as the largest sycamore in the state.

Mary and John Smith, who farm near here, are the proud owners of a 144-foot sycamore that took top honors in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' contest.

"We do feel that it's an honor," Mary Smith said. "It's a really big tree.

"It's not too easy to get to. You have to cross the creek. My grandson knows more about it than I do."

The tree is noted in DNR's first big tree index since 1973. A new 128-page book lists 157 champions, each one representing a different species.

Prince George's County boasts the largest number of championship trees with 27.Baltimore County has 23, and Anne Arundel County has 22. Although several trees were nominated for championship status, no trees in St. Mary's, Dorchester or Worcester counties were winners.

Carroll and the remaining counties, along with Baltimore City, have 11 or fewer championship trees.

Property owners, forest rangers and other big-tree worshipers nominated 579 trees from across the state for this year's list. They were measured last year to find out the winners.

Todetermine the size of a tree, the forestry officials followed guidelines used by the American Forestry Association, which has published lists of national championship trees since the 1940s. Five Maryland champions, including the Wye Mill oak, also are national champions for their species.

Three dimensions of a tree -- height, trunk circumference and size of its crown -- are considered in computing a point value. A tree's crown is the outline of what would be seen by a bird flying directly over the tree, or if the tree's shadow was measured atnoon.

The point total is determined by adding the circumference of the trunk in inches, the height of the tree in feet and 25 percent of the average crown spread in feet. Tree trunks are measured 4 1/2 feet from the ground.


In an effort to find an additional source of revenue for the county, the Bureau of Performance Audit reviewed the county's agreement with Prestige Cable TV of CarrollCounty to determine if franchise fees could be increased.

The bureau concluded that the County Commissioners have the option to negotiate with Prestige to increase the franchise fee from 3 percent to 5 percent, following a federal act that allows a 5 percent ceiling.

Based on fiscal 1990 Prestige revenues, the bureau estimates that every 1 percent increase in the franchise fee would add $51,596 to countycoffers and $26,664 to the alliance of seven municipalities that contract for the service.

The audit determined that Prestige has remitted the proper amount of franchise fees to the county and municipalities, in accordance with a 1984 agreement, over a two-year period.

The agreement calls for Prestige to remit 3 percent of its gross operating revenue to the county each year as compensation for the use ofpublic property in the operation of its system. Between Oct. 1, 1988, and Sept. 30, 1990, the county received $287,671 in franchise fees,and seven municipalities received a combined $147,226.

Manchesterhas a contract with a different cable company.


Mount Airy developer Robert Hilton, representing a Frederick County-based development group, requested that the County Commissionersrezone 8.2 acres in Winfield from agriculture to business at a public hearing Thursday.

Day Estates Joint Venture intends to develop the property commercially, said the petitioner's attorney, James Willard Davis. The County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended expansion of the Winfield business district.

Day Estates' property is on the northeast side of Old Liberty Road, about 500 feet west of Salem Bottom Road.

Hilton testified that the land is not appropriate for agricultural use because it is sloped and rocky and has a right of way traversing it. Also, a ball field behind the property is used for recreation and picnics, he said.

Residential growth in districts near the property justifies the request for commercial expansion, a planner testified.

No one opposed the rezoning. The public record remains open for 10 days after the hearing.


TANEYTOWN -- The Carroll County Public Library board of trustees discussed Wednesday the creation of several "Friends of the Library" groups throughout the county.

Friends groups in other areas haveraised money for projects and lobbied for libraries at budget hearings and other legislative sessions, CCPL director Martha M. Makosky said.

"This gives people an opportunity to be involved in the library," she said, noting that patrons countywide have asked about joiningFriends groups. "A lot of people would like to be involved."

A Mount Airy group -- which has dwindled to two members -- lobbied for library money in the budget and was responsible for buying rocking chairs, display cabinets and other items for their branch, said trustee Eugenia Gartrell.

"We started when no attention was being paid to us (by the commissioners)," she said. "Numbers say something."

Members are considering building up the Mount Airy group as a test area and then possibly creating groups for each branch.


HAMPSTEAD -- The Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission will consider final approval for a new storage building, as well as twoother requests, at a 7 p.m. meeting tomorrow at the Town Hall, 1034 S. Carroll St.

The owners of Rittenhouse Fuel Co. will seek final approval to build a new self-storage warehouse called Hampstead Self-Storage on Hampstead-Mexico Road.

Also tomorrow, the Trenton Business Center industrial park, owned by developer Charles Harwood of Upperco, returns for a second stage of approval, called preliminary approval.

Harwood already has approval for the concept plan, and will present more details for further approval tomorrow.

The commissionalso will hear a request by St. Mark's Lutheran Church for approval of a concept plan for expansion.


The Department of Social Services has added two new board members appointed this month by the County Commissioners.

Joining the board are J. Jeffrey Griffith of Sykesville, a lawyer and former County Commissioner, and John Ferrant of Westminster.

They replace David Pyle of Finksburg and Harris Sanner of Westminster, whose terms expired in June.

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