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Neall encourages development of strategy to create open space Panel concludes more must be done


The county needs a "focused" strategy to acquire an preserve open spaces, just as it has one to encourage economic development, County Executive Robert R. Neall said yesterday.

Mr. Neall said the county spent millions of dollars last year encouraging farmers to keep their fields in agriculture and out of the hands of developers.

The county also has purchased environmentally sensitive tracts along the Patuxent and Magothy rivers.

But the County Executive's Advisory Committee for Open-Space said that isn't enough. It released a report yesterday containing 17 recommendations.

The report suggests that the county adopt a definition of open space that recognizes its economic, social and environmental benefits outside of park development.

"We are doing things already, but [the panel] is looking for us to take on a little more focus," Mr. Neall said after the committee presented its findings. "I've got no quarrel with that."

Mr. Neall appointed the eight-member panel last fall after several environmental groups criticized the county for lacking a central policy.

Although the county prepares an open-space management plan every five years for the state Department of Natural Resources, it primarily addresses recreation and park land, Mr. Neall said.

Other recommendations include:

* Appointing people with a wider perspective on open-space issues to boards and commissions.

* Granting county tax credits to property owners who have pledged not to develop their land.

* Taking the lead in the creation of public-private partnerships to purchase and acquire open-space areas.

* Reforming a law that allows farm families to ignore zoning restrictions by creating lots for their children and then selling them to developers.

"It pays for the county to identify open spaces in its planning," said Debra Lee Osbourne, a committee member and Edgewater resident. "It has value other than something pretty to look at and play on."

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