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Applause greets transfer tax hike in Berkeley County

The Berkeley County Commission voted to fund the farmland preservation program by increasing the real estate transfer tax.

The Berkeley County Commission voted to fund the farmland preservation program by increasing the real estate transfer tax.

March 07, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Applause greeted the Berkeley County Commission's unanimous decision Thursday morning to increase the real estate transfer tax, with the additional money to go toward farmland preservation.

Commissioners Howard Strauss, Steve Teufel and John Wright all spoke briefly about their approval of the Farmland Protection Program before voting.

The tax, paid by a property buyer, is assessed per $1,000 of value. Because of the commission's vote, the rate increased from $4.40 to $6.60 per $1,000 of value, effective April 1.

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"I think your foresight and your decision will be a good legacy for you," said Edgar Mason, a county resident and vocal supporter of the tax increase. "I'm looking forward to seeing that green space preserved."

Wright voted in favor of the increase despite concerns voiced at a public hearing last week that farmers might choose to sell useless land that "wouldn't raise dandelions" to the protection program.

Lavonne Paden, who is on the county's Farmland Protection Board, said that implementing land into the program is voluntary and a farmer could decide to keep some acres and sell easements to others.

Farmland incorporated into the program cannot be developed for any commercial, industrial, residential or non-farm purposes. Although its owner retains the right to sell or bequeath the land, subsequent owners are bound by the preservation agreement, according to a booklet detailing the program.

Any woodland in the easement cannot be used for commercial forestry. However, growing Christmas trees, orchards or nursery stock is allowed.

Land owners cannot sell, lease or grant any portion of the land for utilities, such as water, sewer or power lines, cell phone towers or sewage pumping stations.

Open space within a development that becomes part of the program cannot be used for golf courses, tennis clubs, pools, non-equestrian racetracks or ball fields.

Last month, the Jefferson County Commission also approved a real estate transfer tax increase - to $6.60 per $1,000 in property value - to pay for its farmland preservation program.

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