- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
There was no consensus this week among the five St. Mary’s County commissioners on a $5 million request to preserve agricultural lands from the county agriculture, seafood and forestry board.
Two of the commissioners said they would support some funding, two said no and one said he needed to learn more.
“I don’t know about $5 million, but a million is a good start,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D). He and Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said they were interested in protecting Patuxent River Naval Air Station from development encroachment by investing in the Mattapany Rural Legacy area, which runs from Forest Park Road in Lexington Park to Ridge on the east side of Route 235.
The Rural Legacy area includes more than 13,000 acres, with about 1,650 acres preserved so far, said Donna Sasscer, agricultural specialist for the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development. The state-owned Elms property in area is 1,020 acres.
Morris said he would look to fund “as much money as I can afford to put into it.” Supporting agricultural land preservation “will keep St. Mary’s the way we know and love it today,” he said.
Preserving the Mattapany Rural Legacy area in a natural state will prevent more pollutants from draining into the Chesapeake Bay, he said.
Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) said she wouldn’t be supporting the funding request. With the uncertain economic times and unfunded state and federal mandates, “I just feel like we can’t entertain that at this time,” she said.
“I’m the guy who’s not going to raise taxes,” said Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R). “I will support cuts.”
There has been significant progress in preserving lands in St. Mary’s so far. “It’s not like we’re not doing anything. Right now, farmers are on the receiving end of beneficial things,” he said.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said he didn’t yet know which direction to take because he is not too familiar with the issue. “I’ve got some more homework to do on this one,” he said.
There are two meetings scheduled for the St. Mary’s County commissioners to finalize the fiscal 2013 budget by the end of this month. The budget is at $211.4 million so far.