Growth management has once again become a cause celebre. And, more than ever, one of the central challenges of growth management is to protect vital natural resources from development. Chief among these vital resources are the nation‘s farmlands. They supply our food; provide environmental amenities like scenic open space, wildlife habitat and unpaved watersheds; and demand few public services. If securely protected, a perimeter of farmland can function as a ?frame for community growth, deterring sprawl and encouraging efficient use of suburban land and the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.
Securely protecting farmland—putting it legally out of the reach of development for the foreseeable future—requires that we go beyond land use regulations that are subject to political winds of change. It demands that we confront the market economy and the issue of private property rights to accommodate the interest of landowners in protecting the equity in their real estate. The nation‘s most effective farmland protection programs do this by marrying compensation and regulation—?carrots and ?sticks—in ways that enable the advantages of each to offset the drawbacks of the other.
This paper will begin in Part I by describing the traditional all-or-nothing approach to farmland protection and the conflict that it has engendered.
Part II will then delve into the structure and function of one of the most successful of the new hybrid programs, that of Montgomery County, Maryland. Part III will put the Montgomery County approach into the context of a new paradigm, not only for growth management, but also for other environmental challenges facing our society. Part IV will discuss the potential impact of the Takings Clause5 on this new paradigm. Finally, Part V will conclude that the hybrid approach is really a compromise between landowners and the general public, and consequently is the most effective way to achieve farmland protection and other important land use objectives.