Baltimore County Now
Land Preservation Commitment is State and National Model
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced today that the County’s land preservation program has been recognized for its achievements and recertified for three years, allowing the County to retain the lion’s share of local agricultural land transfer fees to invest in land preservation.
The State Rural Legacy Program has also awarded funding to two Baltimore County land trusts and Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation made easement offers to seven Baltimore County farms.
"Preserving rural land in Baltimore County continues to provide many benefits to the citizens of the County. From maintaining a source of local food, to preserving forests that enhance the water quality of our drinking water reservoirs, to reducing the cost of sprawl, Baltimore County remains a national leader in land preservation,” said Kamenetz.
Under Kamenetz, County Has Invested $9.7 Million, Preserved Nearly 5,000 Acres
The State recognized the success of the County’s land preservation strategy that combines restrictive zoning with a growth boundary and acquisition of easements. Since entering office, County Executive Kamenetz has maintained his commitment to land preservation with a total of 4,867 acres preserved in the past five years moving the County closer to its goal of 80,000 acres. For the past five years the County has preserved almost six acres for each acre converted to development.
In approving the County’s request for recertification, the Maryland Department of Planning recognized that even though it is the third most populous jurisdiction in Maryland, Baltimore County has set aside more than 135,000 acres – one third of the County – for agriculture, forestry and open space. Baltimore County has placed 62,828 acres under easement and is ranked first among counties for Maryland Environmental Trust donated easements, third for Rural Legacy and fourth for agricultural easements.
Only 2 Percent of Permit Requests in Protected Agricultural Areas Approved
Over the reporting period, Fiscal Year 2012 to 2014, the County approved only 2 percent of all new permits within the 135,000 acres designated as Agricultural Preservation Area. It retained its protective agricultural zoning and committed $9.7 million of county funds for land preservation during this period.
Carol West, Executive Director of Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation praised the County’s work saying, “The MALPF Board of Trustees and the Maryland Department of Planning were pleased to recertify Baltimore County for another three years. Recertification allows the County to retain more of their agricultural transfer taxes to be used for preservation in any of the many active programs within the County. They continue to demonstrate their commitment to the preservation of farmland and support of farmers in the County. They have committed more funds for the current acquisition than any other county.”
“I am very pleased that the County is partnering with the State to preserve farmland and open space — one of the best ways to protect our water quality,” said County Council Chair Cathy Bevins.
$3.8 Million in State Funding For Preservation of 1,000 Acres
Subject to Board of Public Works approval, the State Rural Legacy Program has awarded $1.1 million to two Baltimore County Land Trusts. These awards were out of a total of $10 million statewide, for which there were 26 applications. These land trusts will seek to preserve land as soon as the funding receives final approval. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Board of Trustees approved an allocation of $2.63 million in state funds, and, with $1.3 million in County matching funds, they made offers to seven farms, subject to Board of Public Works and County Council approvals. Preservation from these two programs is expected to protect 1,000 acres of rural land in the County.
"We greatly appreciate the continued support by the State, County Executive and County Council for farmers seeking to permanently preserve their farmland," said Gail Ensor, Chairperson of the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board. "Farming, and the many agriculture related industries, are an important part of the County's economy as well as a key component of the rural landscape.”
Land Preservation Has Moved to Promote Better Coordination
The County’s Land Preservation function has recently been relocated to the Department of Planning. This has created the opportunity to better integrate land preservation with land use planning. It has also provided the opportunity to make its programs more consistent with the County’s Historic Preservation program, which is also housed in Planning. “We are pleased to have the land preservation program in Planning where we can integrate many of its functions into rural planning. We are especially pleased to work with the dedicated Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board,” said Planning Director Andrea Van Arsdale.
Find Out How to Preserve Your Rural Land
Information is available on applying to donate or sell an easement.
Andrea Van Arsdale, Director
Baltimore County Department of Planning
Have you ever ventured out past the Beltway and begun to notice office buildings, retail centers, and residential communities giving way to agricultural fields, pastures, and wooded stream valleys? These areas are not just beautiful scenery and they didn’t stay green by accident. The open fields and forested areas protect the tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, shield the waterways from suburban runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife pressured by development.
You may wonder, how have these areas have managed to remain rural? Since 1967, Baltimore County has been protecting its agricultural and environmental resources through responsible and sustainable land use policies and regulations. As a result, we have a legacy of sustainable growth and remain a national leader in this movement.
Last year, the Maryland legislature passed Senate Bill 236, introducing similar land use strategies statewide. SB236 calls for all jurisdictions to classify their land according to four distinct growth tiers that define levels of residential development. Under the direction of County Executive Kamenetz, the Planning Department solicited input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Building upon that information and following the implementation guidelines from the State, the Planning Department established and mapped our four growth tiers. Within the County’s rural areas, the growth tiers set the number of houses served by individual septic systems. This serves to further prevent suburban sprawl and to encourage investment in the County’s established neighborhoods and older Beltway communities – the essence of smart growth.
Baltimore County’s Growth Tiers received highly favorable recognition from the Maryland Department of Planning and 1000 Friends of Maryland. We were proud to be one of the first in the state to submit our growth tiers map, especially since it was approved with no changes by the state. The County’s strong land use policies and regulations will help ensure the preservation of our agricultural heritage and the future health of the Chesapeake Bay.