Carroll's commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to buy five acres near the Carroll County Sports Complex on Littlestown Pike, mostly because they want to avoid future problems and possible lawsuits.
The wooded tract is surrounded by hundreds of county-owned acres used for ball fields, the John Owings Landfill and the Carroll County Humane Society, said Assistant County Attorney Isaac Menasche.
The only access to the tract is through county property. Mr. Menasche said the owners -- Jean and Budd Kenneth Parker of Johnstown, Pa. -- told him, "Please give us a way in or buy the property."
So the commissioners agreed to pay the Parkers $55,000 for the land, which is zoned conservation. In June 1991, when the Parkers approached the county, their price was $125,000 for the sale, county records show.
Comparable land in Carroll has sold for $50,000 to $70,000, according to a January appraisal by Bernard F. Semon of Towson.
He concluded that the Parkers' land was worth $25,500, but based his price on the assumption that the land could not be developed. Mr. Menasche said the land could be developed.
Tax records show the full cash value of the land in 1991 was $45,000.
Mrs. Parker inherited the land from an aunt in 1984, records show. The parcel was created when Carroll was still part of Frederick County, Mr. Menasche said.
If the commissioners had not bought the land, the county would have been required to give the Parkers a right of way to the parcel through county land, the county lawyer said.
If a house were built on the land, the county might have experienced future problems, such as if the landfill leaked and contaminated well water at the home or if the homeowners were bothered by the lights at the sports complex, the commissioners said.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said one lawsuit from the owners in such a dispute could cost the county more than $55,000.
"We're kind of backed in a corner where we don't have a lot of choice," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.
He asked why the county should buy the land now.
"I question whether, with budgets the way they are, we should be buying this piece at this time," Mr. Dell said.
After hearing that the $55,000 to buy the land would come from a "landfill enterprise fund" instead of the general fund, he agreed to buy the parcel.
"It's not money we could use to buy a school?" Mr. Dell asked.
Mr. Menasche said no and told Mr. Dell that the landfill fund is money raised through tipping fees at county landfills.