The Honorable Casper R. Taylor, Jr.
Speaker of the House
State House
Annapolis MD 21401

Dear Mr. Speaker:

In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, I have today vetoed House Bill 1000 - Agricultural Land Preservation - Easements - Dwelling House.

House Bill 1000 permits a landowner who sold an easement to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) prior to January 1, 1990 to apply to the Foundation for the release from easement restrictions of one acre of the land to permit the construction of a dwelling for a subsequent landowner, subject to certain conditions. The bill applies only in Carroll County and would apparently apply to five properties.

The Maryland General Assembly created the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation in 1977 for the purpose of preserving and ensuring continuation of the agricultural interests of Maryland. Agricultural preservation districts are formed when qualifying landowners sign voluntary agreements to keep their land in agricultural or woodland use for a minimum of five years. Landowners agreeing to place their farms within an agricultural preservation district relinquish their interests in the land and may sell a development rights easement on the property to the Foundation which protects the property from further development.

While the bill applies to only five properties in Carroll County, I am concerned about the policy and precedent of House Bill 1000. House Bill 1000 is another in a continuing series of bills that have been introduced in the past few years to weaken the easement restrictions purchased by MALPF. In this instance, the conditions of the sale of the easement were known to the owners of the property at the time of the sale over 12 years ago. Now, legislation is introduced to retroactively change those conditions.

During the 2002 Session, the Maryland Department of Agriculture opposed House Bill 1000 in the House and Senate. The opposition was based, in part, on the precedent that would be set in House Bill 1000. As passed, the bill applies only in Carroll County and only for easements sold prior to January 1990. The bill also allows the easement restrictions to be lifted for any subsequent landowner, rather than the current provisions that permit the release of easement restrictions for the landowner or a child of the landowner. Having taken this step, what is to discourage the continued erosion of MALPF in future years through the expansion of the exception to other counties, to easements sold prior to a later date or to other interested purchasers of one acre dwelling houses under different conditions? We have protected over one million acres of land in Maryland and, for the first time, we are preserving more land than we are losing to development. House Bill 1000 is one of several bills that passed this year and in prior years which, taken together, would seriously erode our efforts to preserve land for future generations. I respectfully urge future Governors and future legislatures to remain vigilant in these protection efforts and proceed cautiously in altering these programs.

For the above reasons, I have vetoed House Bill 1000.

Parris N. Glendening