At least three-fifths of the county's largest and perhaps most historic property won't be marred by development, the current descendants of Charles Carroll of Carrollton said last night.
John Lee Carroll told the Howard County Agricultural Land Preservation Board last night that "development is not on our minds" after thanking the panel for approving 315 acres of the 2,150-acre Doughoregan Manor property for entry into the county's farmland preservation program.
The board agreed to pay $6,000 an acre for an easement prohibiting development forever. The deal is subject to approval by the county executive and County Council and acceptance by family members who were not present last night.
Mr. Carroll's children; his sister, Mary Carter Carroll Ziegler; and her children own the 315 acres as part of 1,250 acres they inherited from the late Nina R. Carroll, mother of Mr. Carroll and Ms. Ziegler. The family said last night that it has no intention of developing the rest of the 1,250 acres.
Nina Carroll's other son, Philip Carroll, and his children, own the northern 900 acres of the manor property, which was divided after Mrs. Carroll's death in 1987. The future of that property is uncertain.
The manor property, which borders Route 144 just east of Folly Quarter Road on its northern end and stretches south almost to Route 108, is what remains of the summer estate of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
"I'd like to thank the Carroll family for what I think is a giant step toward the preservation of a giant tract in the county," said board chairman Rob Moxley.
Despite praise for the parcel's value to county preservation plans, the board stopped short of approving top dollar for the easement purchase.
Under the preservation program's pricing formula, the 315-acre tract was eligible for $2,079,000.
But board members noted that the land could not be developed because it has a temporary state historic preservation easement that expires in 2007.
"It's got to go through the council," warned James Clark Jr., board member and former state senator. "There is some lTC opposition on the council to us buying an easement on property that already has an easement on it."
The $6,000 an acre, or $1,890,000 total, was the lowest the board could approve under the program's pricing policy.
Mr. Carroll told the board last night that the federal government helped the family decide to offer to sell its development rights to the county.
"The biggest engine of development in this country today is the federal estate tax law," he said. Paying taxes on the estate of Nina Carroll forced the family to sell other things, too, he said.
"We've used all of my mother's savings, sold her apartment and sold Woodlot," a property now being developed between the Columbia villages of Hickory Ridge and Harper's Choice. "We have no intentions to develop any other land," Mr. Carroll added.
"This is an alternative to putting up any other land for sale. I hope it will work."
As for the northern 900 acres of Doughoregan Manor, Philip Carroll said recently that it was too early to make any pronouncements on what might happen once the historical easement expires in 2007.
The 315-acre easement was one of five approved and priced by the board last night.
The board approved the purchase of agricultural easements, which prohibit building except for a small number of family members' homes, on 543 acres across the west county for about $2,648,000.
Mr. Moxley, the board chairman, also announced that County Executive Charles I. Ecker has agreed to make offers on all five properties if the council approves a borrowing plan for each.