In a move likely to increase development pressures around Doughoregan Manor, the country estate of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll, Carroll descendants agreed yesterday to sell 270 acres near the manor for a residential subdivision.
A moment before they were to face off in Howard County Circuit Court, rival branches of the Carroll family told a judge that they agreed to sell in one piece the 270-acre parcel they jointly own south of the main Doughoregan Manor estate. The children of Philip Carroll, the manor's resident, had gone to court seeking to break off their third of the parcel and develop it on their own, which their relatives opposed.
With the dispute resolved, the parcel will become the latest portion of the 10,000 acres of Carroll land that once surrounded Doughoregan Manor to be developed. The area around the roughly 2,000 acres that remain of the main estate is dominated by high-end subdivisions, most of them on former Carroll land.
It remains to be seen what effect the sale of the 270 acres could have on the 860 acres directly around the manor house, which are owned by Philip Carroll's two children and which could be developed in 2007 when a historic preservation easement expires. The other side of the family has placed much of its land closer to the manor in permanent protection.
Local and state preservationists hope Philip Carroll's children, Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll, will feel less need to sell land around the manor if they are able to earn a sizable sum on the sale of the 270 acres.
At the same time, preservationists lamented yesterday the imminent development of another large parcel near the manor, which they fear will make it less appealing for Camilla Carroll and Philip D. Carroll to hang onto the land directly around the manor.
"It's sad to see a parcel like this be removed," said Dennis Luck, president of the county chapter of the Sierra Club, who noted that the parcel includes a branch of the Middle Patuxent River. "There are rules on the books that will protect [the wetlands], but it still won't be as pristine as it is now."
Yesterday, attorneys for the two branches hailed the agreement, which spared the publicity-shy Carrolls from displaying intrafamily divisions in what was expected to be a two-day trial.
"It should have been done this way from day one," said Ronald S. Schimel, attorney for Philip Carroll's two siblings and the siblings' children, who own a two-thirds interest in the 270 acres.
Under the agreement, the land will be sold at public auction in the next few months and either side of the family will have the opportunity to take part in the bidding and buy out the other.
With its location in the center of the county, developers say the land could fetch at least $15,000 an acre. County zoning rules allow construction of one home per 2 acres on the land, which lacks public water and sewer.
Roots of the dispute
Lawyers said the land dispute began when Philip Carroll's siblings and the siblings' children opposed Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll's wish to sell the 270 acres. When Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll then went to court seeking to break off and sell a third of the land, their relatives switched gears, saying they wanted to sell the land in one piece and divide the proceeds.
The proposed partition would give Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll the best part of the parcel, the relatives argued. Yesterday, lawyers on both sides said the relatives realized, just before trial's start, that they had come around to wanting basically the same thing.
Of like minds
"It turns out we had an agreement and didn't realize it," said E. Alexander Adams, attorney for Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll, who were not in court. At least one member of the other side of the family attended. "Both parties agree that the highest and best use of the property is residential development, and that's what triggered the need for this sale," Adams said.
Neither lawyer would speculate on how the sale would affect the fate of Philip D. Carroll and Camilla Carroll's 860 acres around the manor, which is the only home of a Declaration of Independence signer still in family hands.
"I'm not smart enough for that," Schimel said.