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Commissioners OK $1.2 million to preserve two farms

August 29, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved more than $1.2 million to pay for land easements that will protect two local farms from future development.

A 208-acre farm near Boonsboro and a 90-acre farm on Lappans Road near Hagerstown will be prohibited from development "forever," according to Washington County Land Preservation Planner Eric Seifarth.

The farms will be preserved under the Maryland Rural Legacy Program and the Federal Ranch Protection Program, which both provide grants to local governments to protect farmland.

The county will pay $372,781 to match the federal grant, which will go toward the Lappans Road farm owned by Phyllis Barr. The state grant, which was received by the county last year, totaled $1.8 million. Of that, $852,461.20 will be spent to preserve Constance E. Thomas' farm near Antietam Battlefield.

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Both grants will be paid to the farms' owners, who in exchange will agree not to subdivide or sell their land to developers. Under current zoning laws, the farms combined would yield 34 lots for homes.

The commissioners unanimously approved both easements. Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire seconded the measures but seemed unconvinced that they were responsible uses of taxpayer money.

"The state has a $1.5 billion structural deficit and failing infrastructure, and today we will have spent almost $1.5 million to keep two farms from being developed," Aleshire said.

The county's Rural Legacy grant was part of $26 million handed out statewide. Washington County has preserved more than 3,000 acres near Antietam Battlefield through the program, Seifarth said.

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