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Farm bill is bad for Baltimore Co.

Where should Baltimore County Council plant agricultural tourism bill? Six feet under

Your recent article on the Baltimore County agricultural tourism bill unfairly describes battle lines being drawn between farmers on one side and local land preservationists on the other ("County bill sparks debate over tourism on farms," Oct. 14). This is an inaccurate oversimplification, the matter being much more complex than depicted.

Farmers are the leading land preservationists representing the majority of landowners by far who have placed their property in permanent preservation. Everyone in Baltimore County's rural 3rd District, farmers and community groups alike, wants to see farming continue to be economically viable. The community as a whole is open to the idea of agricultural tourism, and they said as much at the County Council work session. It is the wording and construction of this particular piece of legislation that has everyone rightly alarmed.

Councilman Todd Huff, who remains in office for only six more weeks, has had this bill prepared behind closed doors and is pulling out all stops to rush it through. As written, the bill essentially converts all of the resource conservation zones into business zones. I agree with the assessment of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz that the bill conflicts with county efforts to protect rural land from commercial development. As such, it is bad public policy, not just for Baltimore County but also for everyone in the Baltimore region who benefits from the cleaner air and water made possible by the presently protected resource zones.

A wise council would not rush to spend its limited natural capital recklessly but defer the matter until it can be given the full consideration that it is due. Both candidates who would replace Mr. Huff after his term expires say they are ready to take up the issue as soon as the new council is seated. With a willing future councilman and a supportive community, this fatally flawed bill should be resoundingly voted down.

Sharon D. Bailey

The writer is president of the Prettyboy Watershed Alliance.

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