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Commissioners agree to back county preservation ordinance

September 28, 2005|by TARA REILLY

Washington County hopes to speed the preservation of agricultural land with a program that will allow the county to acquire the development rights of land up front but pay the property owners for the purchases over a 10-year period.

The commissioners agreed through consensus to support the Installment Purchase Program at Tuesday's meeting, but they delayed an official vote so staff can reword parts of the ordinance.

The commissioners also asked staff to provide more details about a provision in the ordinance that would allow property owners to apply to buy back the development rights after 25 years, County Commissioner John C. Munson said after the meeting.

Under the program, the county would pay 10 percent of the preservation easement's value each year for 10 years, along with 3 percent interest each year.

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The county plans to spend $5.2 million to purchase the development rights of 12 properties. The easements on the 12 properties will cover about 1,500 acres, said Eric Seifarth, the county's land preservation administrator.

With those 1,500 acres, the county will have preserved nearly 21,000 acres from development. The county's goal is to preserve 50,000 acres, Seifarth said.

The commissioners plan to discuss the program again at an Oct. 11 meeting.

Landowners who apply to have their properties included in the program must meet certain qualifications, such as soil, size and location criteria, according to information provided by the county.

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