Montgomery looks to get $400,000 to preserve open space -- Gazette.Net


Maryland’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday will consider giving Montgomery County $400,000 to preserve more rural open space. The money for Montgomery is one of 15 Rural Legacy Grants, a total of $13.5 million, that the state looks to dole out in fiscal 2014.

Designed to protect farmland, forests, wildlife habitats and clean water from urban sprawl, the grant program provides money to local governments or private sponsors to purchase conservation easements or fee simple interests from willing owners of open space.

Since 1997, when the county first applied for a Rural Legacy Grant, Montgomery has received about $20 million from the state program, said John Zawitoski, Montgomery County director of planning and promotions for the county Department of Economic Development Agricultural Services Division.

However, this would be the first Rural Legacy Grant that Montgomery has received since 2004, he said.

Zawitoski said the county would use the $400,000 to enhance its farmland preservation efforts, but the money must be spent in the designated rural legacy area.

Montgomery has two designated rural legacy areas: the Mid-Maryland Montgomery Rural Legacy Area, which stretches from Poolesville to Barnesville; and the Upper Patuxtent Rural Legacy Area, between Damascus and Sandy Spring, he said.

If approved, the grant would fund preservation in the Mid-Maryland area.

While Zawitoski said the Board of Public Works can be unpredictable, he expects it to approve the grant.

“I don’t anticipate that there is going to be an issue,” he said. “I will be at the meeting [Wednesday] to answer any questions that the board may ask.”

Susanne Brogan, deputy treasurer for public policy, said each year the Department of Natural Resources brings recommended Rural Legacy Grant awards to the board.

While Brogan could not say definitively how Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) would vote, Brogan did say there were no known problems with the grant to Montgomery.

“To my knowledge I do not think the treasurer has any issues with this item,” Brogan said. “In the past, she has supported similar items.”

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) is still reviewing information for the meeting, but he is committed to preserving Maryland’s agricultural heritage and protecting the rural legacy of his home county, spokesman Christine Feldmann said.

In addition to Kopp and Franchot, the three-member board includes Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).