Advertisement

Preserving local farmland

September 29, 2005

With some members reluctant to issue bonds for this purpose, the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed in principle on a plan to buy farmland preservation easements on the installment plan.

It's better than a pay-as-you-go plan under which easements wouldn't be purchased until the county had all the revenue in hand. But even in the absence of a bond issue, there are other things the county and its citizens can do to preserve farmland.

But let's answer this question first: Why should citizens care whether farmland is developed? Because, in the long run, preservation will cost the county taxpayers much less than development.

Even if a developer agrees to provide a school site - or even offers to build the school, as one developer did in Frederick County - all taxpayers still have to pay to hire the teachers and maintain the facility.

Advertisement

Then there are the roads, which as Gary Rohrer, the county's director of public works recently noted, are in some cases just farm lanes that were paved over, as opposed to roads truly engineered for the traffic loads they're being asked to carry.

Someone - and guess who that someone will be - will have to pay for maintaining those roads, even if new fees on construction pay to have them upgraded. Even if you don't care about aesthetics and quality-of-life issues, preservation is still cheaper than paying the freight for development.

So how can that process of preserving land be accelerated? If every county taxpayer committed $40 a year, that would raise $2 million for the purchase of easements.

Not every taxpayer would contribute, of course, but if a group such as Citizens for the Protection of Washington County were to raise funds for this purpose, the county could preserve more land now, before easement prices increase again. Such contributions would be affordable insurance for taxpayers against higher costs later.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|