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County's first farmland deal close

December 22, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board is about to save its first piece of farmland.

Today, a deal is expected to be finalized for the preservation of 94 acres of farmland outside Shepherdstown, W.Va., along the Potomac River, Jefferson County Commission President Jane Tabb said Sunday.

The property is referred to as the Olcott farm, Tabb said.

Under the agreement, the land will not be developed under a conservation easement that has been drawn up for the property, she said.

Tabb said the owner of the property will receive money in exchange for allowing the conservation easement to exist, although she was not sure how much money it will be.

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The money will come from funds generated by a transfer tax increase that was approved by the commissioners earlier this year, Tabb said.

A property transfer tax is a tax generated when a piece of real estate is sold.

The commissioners agreed to increase the transfer tax to the maximum allowable rate of $6.60 per $1,000 of land value. The county was receiving about $4.40 per $1,000 of land value.

The tax increase was expected to generate about $600,000 a year for farmland protection, officials said.

Roger Dailey, chairman of the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board, declined Sunday to comment about the Olcott deal. Dailey said he did not want to talk about the conservation easement for the property until the agreement is finalized today.

In addition to the Olcott deal, two other farmland proposals are in the works, Tabb said.

Farmland protection has been gaining interest in the Eastern Panhandle, where agricultural land quickly is giving way to residential development.

About three years ago, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that allows counties to set up farmland protection boards. The boards now exist in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.

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