Balto. County to get money to save land $5 million to preserve farms in Upperco and bay coastline; Announcement is today; Rural Legacy funds are designed to slow suburban sprawl


Baltimore County will receive the largest chunk of money from the state's new Rural Legacy fund to help preserve farms in Upperco and wildlife habitats on the Back River Neck Peninsula, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is scheduled to announce today.

County officials, who were told last week about the award, expect $5 million from the $29 million state program, established as part of the Smart Growth initiative to save farmland and open space from suburban sprawl.

Other winning proposals came from Howard, Montgomery, Washington, Frederick, Prince George's and St. Mary's, as well as counties on the Eastern Shore, preservation sources say.

The governor is scheduled to announce the grant recipients in a series of news conferences beginning today in Montgomery County and in Upperco.

"I'm thankful this program is in existence and we will get this amount of money," said George G. Perdikakis, director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

The Rural Legacy Program -- which sparked strong competition from preservation groups throughout the state -- was created to protect land that might not qualify for other preservation programs. Landowners in the selected areas may sell their development rights to a land trust or local government, preserving the properties from development.

Two of Baltimore County's four proposals were chosen for funding -- one in the Piney Run watershed, where farmers are pressured from development in Carroll County, and the other on the county's coastline.

Although the county government supported all of the plans, it took the most interest in the coastal proposal to save 6,000 acres along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

"The threat of development is always there," said Perdikakis. County staff wrote the proposal in hope that the preserved land will complement a series of parks the county is establishing on the coast.

The bulk of the county's award, however, is expected to go to the Piney Run plan, which would preserve nearly 20,000 acres in the northwest part of the county. The Valleys Planning Council, a county land preservation group, asked the state for $6 million to save farmland from development.

"We believe this area is truly a state treasure," said Jack Dillon, director of the group.

But as word leaked out about the awards, some applicants questioned whether the state had chosen the most worthy proposals and wondered whether the pot of money was being spread too thin.

"You don't want to spread the money too far out," said John Zawitoski, director of planning and promotion for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

Montgomery expects to receive funding for two proposals. In one, the county joined with Frederick and Washington counties to propose saving about 8,000 acres along the Potomac River.

"This is really a model for looking at land preservation on a regional basis," Zawitoski said.

Montgomery also expects to receive a small amount of money to help preserve land along the Patuxent River.

Peter Brown, chairman of an 11-member committee that reviewed the applications, said the committee recommended funding for those areas where the money could do the most good.

In some cases, the committee recommended buying the development rights for only a portion of the proposed land.

As winners received phone calls from the governor's office telling them to prepare for the news conferences, the groups whose proposals were not selected were left to wonder why their efforts fell short.

"We know we ranked very high on all the merits and met all the criteria," said Kathy Ebert, who submitted an application to preserve land in Baltimore County's Long Green Valley.

Baltimore County officials, however, held out the possibility of local funding for those programs not selected. The county has pledged $3.25 million toward the Rural Legacy effort, and officials said they may share some of that money with proposals that were not selected by the state.

Kristin Pauly, a member of the advisory committee, said some of the choices about which proposals to fund were difficult.

"All of the land put forth was land that should be saved," she said.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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