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Board hears farm plan


The Carroll County commissioners are studying a proposal to transform a 104-acre family farm outside Westminster into a venue for horse shows, the 4-H Fair, the Maryland Wine Festival and other events throughout the year.

Plans for Gesell farm, on Route 27 behind Carroll County's agriculture center and farm museum, were presented to the three-member Board of County Commissioners yesterday.

"We see this as a tremendous opportunity," said Dottie Freeman, manager of the farm museum. "The farm museum's mission is to show people what farming was like in the late 1800s. The Ag Center focuses on today's technology. This complex would link the two."

The county bought Gesell farm for $600,000 last year. The transaction, which was supported by many in the farming community, preserved what little agricultural land remains in the area surrounding two of Carroll's most popular attractions.

If the commissioners adopt the plan, Gesell farm will be carved into an agricultural education center over 25 years. If the board decides to move forward, it will probably fund some of the improvements during fiscal year 2002, which will begin July 1.

For the past four months, representatives from the farm museum and agricultural center have been working on a committee to draft plans for Gesell farm.

Whitney Bailey Cox Magnani LLP, an engineering firm based in Baltimore, helped the committee draft plans for the farm. Those plans show an amphitheater similar to the one at Oregon Ridge Park in Baltimore County, two horse rings and several pavilions for classes such as tinsmithing and blacksmithing. The sprawling complex would be served by a shuttle bus, with some of the land used for much-needed parking.

"Not only will this serve as an extension of the farm museum and agricultural center, it's going to pay for itself as it is developed," said Charles E. Utermohle III, the engineering consultant who worked on the plan. "The pavilions can be rented, and the revenue can be used to maintain the property."

It is expected to cost about $2.9 million to grade and pave the roads for the complex. It was not known yesterday how much other improvements, such as buildings and utilities, would cost. The road network would connect the farm museum and agricultural center, and provide access to Route 27. The new traffic pattern would alleviate congestion on Smith Avenue and Center Street, which wind through neighborhoods.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the plan appears to address the county's long-term needs.

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