Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gaining wider attention...

Efforts to preserve Doughoregan Manor in Ellicott City are expanding. More public agencies are getting involved, and so is, apparently, the Governor. Several notable folks discussed the matter last week before taking a tour of (some of) the grounds.

State financial help was among the topics on the table Thursday, when more than a dozen people met in a Columbia legal office and later toured the property by bus.

The group included state officials, two County Council members and Marsha S. McLaughlin, the county planning director. They were joined by College of William and Mary historian Ronald Hoffman and several Carroll family members, as well as Carroll family friend and developer J. Thomas Scrivener, participants said.

The group entered the family chapel on their visit -- but not the manor house, which is named for the family's ancestral 17th-century Irish homeland.

"We wanted state officials to get a sense of the historic significance. It is a magnificent piece of property," said County Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, who helped set up the gathering through the office of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Good to see Merdon putting his politics to good use. If it were only Robey dealing with this, I don't think the Governor's office would have been as accommodating. Anyway, back to the story.

Though she was not a participant, Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, said she was cheered by word that the tour took place.

"My understanding is that the governor is interested, and they are looking at a 100 percent [preservation] solution, which is great news," she said.

That's a welcome sign. If this becomes an issue that the state (and it's financial resources) gets behind, a solution ($$$$$$$$$) probably won't be that hard to find.

I'm glad to see that purchasing development rights came up in the discussion. But I'm not too pleased with the continued emphasis on the use of public money to buy these rights.
One proposal would involve the public purchase of development rights to about 600 acres for up to $24 million, while allowing new homes to be built in a cluster on a separate 200 acres. The Carrolls have zoning that would permit building about 450 homes on their land.

Merdon said the meeting and tour were "the first step in a very long process," but he added that the family members appear interested in the discussion.

The Carrolls stressed, Merdon said, that "they are not asking for any public money," and can develop the land if that's the best way to raise the funds they need. They are also open to state and county efforts to preserve the property, he said.

I just don't understand why we have to rely on public money to accomplish things we think are worthwhile. There is other money out there that will work just fine.

So, I'll ask again, why not make developers who want to build a lot of residential units elsewhere in the county pay to have the right to develop these units by purchasing development rights from property owners that have some that they are not particularly interested in using? Oh, right, because the developers mentioned above say it's a non-starter, at least according to their spokespersons, er, county officials. Well, what if we say residential in Town Center is a non-starter for us, those supposedly dictating the downtown master plan? What then?

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