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Farmland protection rating system unveiled

June 17, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Officials who are heading up farmland protection efforts in Jefferson County are putting together a rating system to determine which farms would be most suitable for protection.

When each piece of farmland is considered for protection, it will be scored in eight areas, according to the plan released to the Jefferson County Commission last week.

Those areas include development pressure, total acreage, the type of soil on the property and historical features.

In the development pressure category, points are awarded based on the location of the land.

If the land is in the rural zone, a zoning area set up to protect farmland, it can receive 20 points, the maximum available in that category, according to the plan.

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The higher the total score, the higher rating the land will receive for possible protection, according to the plan.

The Jefferson County Commission said Thursday it wants to get input from the county's attorney and Jefferson County Planning Commission officials before taking any action on the plan.

Commission President James K. Ruland said it appears the plan follows state law.

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that allows counties to set up farmland protection boards. The boards, which now exist in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, are designed to protect farmland from development by offering farmers money to set up protective easements on their land.

Farmland protection has been a hot-button issue in the Eastern Panhandle, where agricultural land is quickly giving way to residential development.

Generation of the money used for preserving land has not started yet, said Craig Yohn, a local West Virginia University extension agent who has been working on the plan.

The funds could come from a variety of private and public sources, Yohn said.

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