Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Doughoregan Dilemma

I feel sorry for the Carroll family. For most of their lives Philip and Camilla Carroll have watched as, one by one, neighboring farms became subdivisions. They have witnessed firsthand the dramatic transformation of Howard County over the last forty years. The 892 acre farm surrounding Doughoregan Manor in Ellicott City is all that remains of an estate that once comprised 10,000 acres.

892 acres is pretty small as farms go. It certainly isn’t large enough of an operation to sustain the upkeep of the almost 300 year old manor house and other historic buildings on the property. The end game for the manors farming days is here. Development has now become their most viable option. That must be a hard reality for a family who has been stewards of this land since the founding of the country.

In an effort to preserve as much as the remaining estate for future generations, the family has proposed a modest development program that would put 300 single family homes on 186 acres, give 36 acres to expand Kiwanis Wallas Park, place 500 acres into the county Agriculture Preservation Program and keep 90 acres surrounding the manor house for the family, presumably in some sort of historic trust.

I label this as a modest plan because if they so choose to do so, the Carrolls could spread 400 homes over the entire estate as a matter of right under existing zoning.

Predictably, even this modest program has drawn fire from their neighbors. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, The Chateau Ridge Lake Community Association “tried to block or delay consideration of another 500 acres of the historic estate for inclusion in the county's Agricultural Preservation program.”

“Despite that, county officials said the tract was included among those the Agricultural Land Preservation Board deemed desirable in a five-hour meeting Monday at the county fairgrounds.”

Round one goes to the Carrolls but the fight has only just begun.

“Victor A. Illenda, president of the 190-home community association, said his group intends to hire a lawyer and seek allies among residents who live along other borders of the nearly three-century-old estate to stop the clustering plan.”

Ironically, one of their main objections to the Carrolls plan is the single entrance to the proposed new home sites from Frederick Road yet they also oppose providing access through their neighborhood. “The Chateau Ridge residents vehemently oppose any access to the property through their community, however.”

Nice neighbors.


wightwise said...

I agree with you, "nice" neighbors in deed. The Carrolls are trying to preserve a piece of our country's history. They are utilizing their greatest asset - land. The land can save Doughoregan. Why can't these neighbors see that?

Bob O said...

"You can't stop progress, but you can control it." --Edward Abbey

Let's face it, this land will be developed, one way or another. It's going to happen.

This plan appears to put the maximum amount of land possible into the public trust for preservation as at least some sort of historical estate and "wilderness."

There's some goodness in that.

Plus, these people seem to own it, and seem to have been stewards of it for some time. I think that means they get a big say in what happens to it.

Balanced against that are the interests of current neighbors--who have legitimate concerns. I, for one, favor "teardropped" cluster development that keeps through traffic off of streets. I disagree with statists who insist that every neighborhood needs two or more access points; I believe this is just a current fade in suburban planning, and will eventually fade away. Most people don't want it (look at the kind of neighborhoods taht sell best around here).

So, I'm sure there's some sort of compromise available here, without going down the traditional "Howard County angry HOA with a lawyer" route. Seriously.

Bob O said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob O said...

Wow, double posts, how embarassing. I just spazzed on the double click. Please delete one, they are identical.

Anonymous said...

Man, you are just making up this stuff. Existing zoning? That is purely NUTS. Why would anyone pay residential taxes (4,800 per acre zoned residential) rather than zoned agricultural (about $100 per acre) annually? $4800 vs. $100.

Get it together, my good man. Get it together.

PZGURU said...

I'd be willing to bet that part of what has "forced" the Carroll's hands is the inheritance taxes (a.k.a. the "death taxes") that click into effect every time a land owner dies. The inheritance tax hits large land owners (mostly farmers) very hard when the head of the family dies. When you get hit with a tax bill of tens of thousands of dollars, the only option is for the family to sell off the farm outright or develop it so they can at least retain some of it.
The inheritance tax also hits every time the owner passes away. So, the same piece of land can get hit with the inheritance tax MULTIPLE times.
I've always felt that if the inheritance tax laws were revised, local and state governments wouldn't have to pay to "preserve" these tracts of land because the owners would no longer be backed into a financial corner where development is their best option.

Frankly, if the Carroll's proposal is for fewer homes than what they could do by right under the laws, then the neighbors don't stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

Homestead taxes are a way to take the roof over your head and give to the government. Under the scenario where your home or farm can be taxed to the point of having to sell before heirs can take possession, the government will eventually own everything.

Anonymous said...

tear it down and build a mall.. wait.. Rouse already did that.

Anonymous said...

The Carroll's say this is all necessary in order to save the historic core of the plantation. Yet they are retaining the development rights to 94 acres in the center of the site without placing any type of easement or other protection on the part of the property they are supposedly trying to save. I'm sure five years down the road they'll "have to" develop those 94 acres as McMansions next to Doughoregan Manor, "as much as it pains them". They ARE proposing to place 500 acres in the County Ag Preservation program, to the tune of $20 million dollars of your tax money. Wow. We get to continue to see corn and soybeans (and the Carroll's continue to get a chunk of money from their lessees and a preferential assessment), but if you try to get a glimpse of the plantation house, the county cops who act as the Carroll's private security squad swoop in like secret service agents.

Anonymous said...

Doughoregan Manor could burn to the ground tomorrow and a) 99% of Howard Countians would never know it; b) 98% of Howard Countians would never have heard of it; and c) 97% of Howard Countians would care less. Let them build if they have to - don't use my taxes to
prop up the last and least of a formerly great Maryland family.

Steve said...

Please check your math. I believe the current zoning allows for 1 house per 4.25 acres (outside of the Ag preservation parcel), which is far less than your calculation.

If the Carrolls want increased density, in addition to concessions for public water/sewer, let them put this "historic treasure" into a trust that will serve all county residents and taxpayers.

Their financial interest.... $$$$ Millions... is obvious. Can somebody please explain how the average taxpaying citizen benefits?

Anonymous said...

County police moon lighting at Doughoregan is only one possible conflict. The police also get paid by land developers to watch their sites at night. Citizens can try to get objectivity from police when land developers behave illegally, but it won't happen.

That is a serious and dangerous conflict that is ongoing. Less dangerous but just as conflicting is the developer attorneys on the county taxpayer payroll for the school system et al.

Outrageous. There is certainly no shortage of attorneys in this county, to force county offices to hire this group with their deeply intrenched agenda.