If you live near a farm, as more and more Anne Arundel County residents do, chances are you're used to the smell of manure, clouds of dust and hulking tractors that can reduce neighborhood traffic to a crawl. And if you don't like it, you can file a complaint that the county has to entertain.
But a bill introduced this week by County Council Member Edward R. Reilly (R-Crofton) will limit the kinds of "nuisance actions" that can be filed against farmers.
Though the grisly and smelly side of farming is not generating a lot of complaints, Reilly said he is concerned about what he called a "loophole" in county law that allows residents living near farms "to harass and even stop farmers from doing their natural business. This legislation affirms a farmer's right to operate his small business."
The proposed bill comes as suburban development continues to encroach upon traditional farming territory. Agriculture has long been a mainstay of the economy of Anne Arundel County, according to Reilly's bill, but over the years, the number of farms in the county and elsewhere in the region has diminished. In 1978, Anne Arundel had 567 farms operating on 42,413 acres. By 2002, there were 432 farms on 35,218 acres.
The area's rapid population growth has brought more opportunities for conflict, Reilly said. "We want to make sure that people who move into agricultural areas understand that, well, they are moving into agricultural areas."
The bill comes about a year after the County Council passed what has been dubbed "the watermen's bill." As more people inhabited the county's coveted waterfront, watermen found themselves under attack. Some newcomers complained that the watermen's equipment was malodorous and was being stored outside their homes on lawns. Neighbors also objected to watermen operating commercial businesses from their homes.
So the council passed a law that allowed the watermen to use their home piers for commercial fishing boats but required them to keep their large equipment out of sight.
A public hearing on the farming bill is scheduled for the Sept. 7 County Council meeting.
Cab Ride to Cost More
Taking a taxicab around Anne Arundel County just got more expensive. On Monday, the council passed a measure to increase the rates cabbies charge.
Under the new rates, which will probably go into effect in a couple of months, the first mile would jump from $3 to $3.40. The rate for every mile after that would increase from $1.40 to $1.60. The airport surcharge would grow from 50 cents a ride to 90 cents.
The increases, designed to help with rising fuel and insurance costs, would boost the cost of a five-mile cab ride to the airport from $8.60 to $9.80, not including the surcharge.
In Health News
County officials say a groundhog that tested positive for rabies was found on the grounds of the Crownsville Hospital Center last week, and health officials are urging anyone who may have come in contact with it to call the health department at 410-222-7256 or 443-481-3140.
Health officials are also seeking 1,100 county residents to participate in a telephone survey designed to determine how well county residents are living and eating. The survey, to be conducted Aug. 16 through Sept. 30, will cover areas such as diet, exercise, illness and access to health insurance.
The results will be compared to results of a similar survey completed in 2001 and will be posted on the department's Web site (www.aahealth.org).
The findings will help the county better focus resources where needed, said a county health officer.