County urged to consider development rights plan


Would it be a boon to Carroll County's agricultural character or a blow to the county's industry?

Bill Powel, administrator of the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program, said yesterday that if Carroll County wants to preserve its agricultural land, it may have to introduce a new system of transferable development rights, or TDRs.

He was speaking to the regular meeting of the county Economic Development Commission.

But William Jenne, administrator of the county's economic development office, said TDRs could cause the price of industrial land in the county to rise.

Under the TDR system, he said, "You're building in more fixed costs that have to be recovered" by developers.

Mr. Powel told the commission that TDRs may be the only way to keep farming alive in the county permanently.

Under the existing land preservation program, he said, the state purchases development rights, or easements, from selected farms to preserve their agricultural character.

However, he said, funding for this program has been "decimated." Also, more Maryland counties are competing for the limited money available.

The TDRs under consideration would work like a development-rights bank. Landowners could sell their development rights to developers who could exchange them for the right to increase the density of their projects elsewhere, on land considered more suitable.

Mr. Powel told the commission he did not come to the meeting to sell a TDR plan. There is no plan yet, he said, and it will be some time before the nuts and bolts of one are settled.

But he said TDRs may be introduced in an ordinance by the end of this year, to coincide with the creation of a master plan for southwestern Carroll County.

One advantage of TDRs, Mr. Powel said, is that no one person would reap all the benefits when a piece of land is rezoned for higher-density development. Instead, both the landowner and the county would benefit.

Commission member Mike Burden said, "I have some serious reservations."

Mr. Burden said he could see how TDRs would help agricultural land owners and residential developers, but not how they could help industry.

Deputy County Attorney George Lahey said TDRs might actually lower the price of industrial land by increasing the amount of land available for industrial development.

Also, he said, the county could use TDRs as a tool for directing development to areas where it is desired.

Economic Development Commission Chairman Lloyd Thomas said yesterday that the commission members would have to learn more about the complicated possibilities of a TDR system.

"Right now," he said, "the TDR is a complete mystery to me."

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