The University of Maryland plans to offer Howard County the chance to buy the rights to develop its 900-acre research farm.

Ray Miller, the school's vice chancellor for agriculture and natural resources, said the transaction would help finance its operations and ensure that there would be room to conduct research.

"It is very important that we maintain the ability to conduct agricultural and natural resources research, and the Central Maryland Farm is a key site we want to save because of its proximity to the university's campuses," he said.

By buying the development rights, the county would ensure that a large swath of land remained in farming.

The university is expected to make a formal proposal to the county's Agricultural Farmland Preservation Board within the next few months.

Miller said he had no estimates on what the university could earn from the sale, but county officials said it could be as much as $20 million over 30 years.

The price would be set by the farmland preservation board after negotiations.

John W. Musselman, chief of the agricultural preservation program, said the university's farm, in the Glenelg area, would be the largest the county had acquired and among the most important.

The county now owns development rights to 10,170 acres and is negotiating on 2,483 additional acres, he said.

Miller said the farm has three major research operations, one focusing on feed for cattle, one involving a dairy operation that features a new robotic milker and another operating an urban garden center.

He said joining the preservation program would help the research center avoid the fate of the university's horse farm in the eastern end of the county.

That farm became so pinned in by development that the university had to cease operations last year and began selling it in parcels.

A sale would have to be approved by the university's board of regents and the Maryland Board of Public Works, Miller said.

Commercial leasing activity -- and average rental rates -- in the District increased in 1990 from the previous year, but the suburbs did not fare as well, according to the November-December assessment of the market by Julien J. Studley Inc., a commercial leasing firm.

In the last two months of 1990, 2.5 million square feet of commercial space were leased in the District, up from 1.4 million during the same period of 1989. The average rate per square foot during this period was $39.88 in new buildings and $28.46 in old buildings. Comparable rates in 1989 were $37.55 and $27.47. For all of 1990, 8.2 million square feet of commercial space were leased in the city, up from 7.7 million in 1989.

In the Maryland suburbs, 217,750 square feet of commercial space were leased in November and December last year, down from 524,466 square feet during the same period of 1989. The 1990 total for Suburban Maryland was 2.4 million, down from 3.1 million in 1989.

In the Virginia suburbs, 633,112 square feet were leased during the last two months of 1990, down from 934,563 in the same period of 1989. The annual total for the area was 3.8 million square feet of leased office space, down from 4.9 million in 1989.

A Baltimore landlord must sell his 90 rental properties as part of an agreement to settle 144 housing code violations.

Walter Garrity, of All State Properties, pleaded guilty recently to 77 of 144 charges brought by the Baltimore Housing Department.

City housing officials said Garrity had ignored housing codes for the past few years. They say the bulk of his properties are vacant eyesores. The inhabited houses are plagued with heating and plumbing problems, they said.

In reaching the agreement, approved last week by District Court Judge Theodore B. Oshrine, Garrity agreed to sell all his properties, most of which have been vacant and dilapidated since he bought them.

Garrity, who also runs a plumbing company, also agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service to rehabilitate other homes in Baltimore.

Garrity's attorney, Stanley Miller, said the properties were already in a serious state of disrepair when his client purchased them. He said Garrity didn't have enough time to make all the necessary repairs.

"That's fictional," said Michael Braverman, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case. "All these buildings were not in bad shape when Mr. Garrity bought them. They deteriorated under his stewardship because of mismanagement."

Braverman said Garrity had been convicted previously of housing violations. Many of his tenants also took him to court to force him to make repairs.

IN THE BUSINESS ... More than half of the individuals relocated by their companies in 1990 were transferred to states in the Southeast and the West, Chicago-based RELO/The International Relocation Network reported ... U.S. real estate in general and the Washington market in particular have lost some of their appeal to Japanese investors, according to a survey of Japanese real estate executives in the United States by Phoenix-based Mead Ventures Inc. The District of Columbia fell from sixth most attractive market in 1989 to ninth in 1990 ... The Prudential Property Co. began development of 1200 K Street, a 12-story, 374,000-square-foot office building on Franklin Square ... The Hightower Institute of Real Estate in Rockville is planning to offer courses in real estate appraisals. For more information, call 301-948-9191 ... Westinghouse Electric Corp. signed a research and licensing agreement with the National Association of Home Builders' National Research Center's Smart House L.P. to market a security system compatible with the Smart House system for integrated home automation ... Richard Kimzey, formerly of Long & Foster's Bethesda commercial office opened his own consulting firm, Commercial Realty Inc., to offer lease or financing negotiation to small and medium-sized firms ... Quay Williams, a former residential real estate agent with Mount Vernon Realty in Prince George's County, bought franchise rights to Realty Executives for that area. His new firm has 10 agents ... The Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the Community Association Institute named four local members as "Community Association of the Year." They are the Wisteria Mansion Condominium in Washington in the small category (fewer than 150 units); the Colonies Condominium of McLean in the medium-sized classification (150 to 499 units); Parkside Condominium in Bethesda in the large division (500 to 999 units); and Kingstowne in Fairfax County in the very large category (more than 1,000 units).

CALENDAR ... The Washington Area Commercial Brokers Council Inc. is planning its first breakfast meeting for Maryland brokers Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda. For those in Northern Virginia, the first meeting will be Feb. 15 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner. For more information, call 202-628-4494 ... The National Real Estate Development Center is planning a conference on "Legal Strategies and Solutions in Cramdowns and Other Key Bankruptcy Real Estate Workout and Reorganization Issues" March 7 and 8 at the Westin-ANA Hotel. For registration information, call 301-657-8220.

PERSONNEL FILE ... Edward E. Pagett, an Alexandria broker, was installed as vice president of the Virginia Association of Realtors ... Kathy Sperling Taub was named vice president of Clark Enterprises Inc. of Bethesda ... Barnes, Morris & Pardoe Inc. promoted Sharon G. Barrett, Robert D. Faktorow, Catherine C. Jones and Scott R. Leachman to vice president ... The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors elected Gayl A. Warman president for the 1991 term ... George F. Milne was appointed planning vice president for Mobil Land Development Corp. in Reston ... Christopher Lee Sherren was elected 1991 president of the Property Management Association.