Friday, December 28, 2007

Dairy Farm Dithering

The ink has hardly dried on the County's contract with the Naval Academy for the former Gambrills Dairy Farm, and already local residents are "worried" about the fate of the farm. The terms of the lease require the County to pay $320,000 (about $373/acre) per year to rent the farm, paid on a ongoing basis. Wisely, and perhaps by legal mandate, Executive Leopold and Councilman Benoit, have refused to tie the hands of future administrations by guaranteeing that the County will hold on to the property for the full term, even though each has said it has every intention of doing so.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think you'll find a more vocal proponent of keeping the farm in agricultural use. I repeatedly denounced efforts to turn the farm into a horse stadium and sand mine. But, this latest Capital piece, and other recent appearances by some of the residents who live around the farm have left me cold.

County taxpayers will likely have shelled out well over $7 million for the rent on the site by the time the contract is up, and every one of us has a right to see some benefit from the property. I truly hope that the County will open the farm to community agricultural plots and opportunities for passive recreation and hiking. And, I hope local residents can stand down and stop looking this gift horse farm in the mouth.

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