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Washington Co. Commissioners to discuss preservation easements today

October 30, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners will hold a public hearing today to decide which local farms will be able to sell preservation easements to the state this year.

The public hearing will be at 11 a.m. during the County Commissioners' regular weekly meeting.

Residents will be allowed to comment on a list of 25 farms that the county has ranked as most eligible for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

Every year, under the farmland preservation program, the state buys easements from local farm owners. Under the easements, landowners are paid a sum of money in exchange for restricting development on the properties forever.

The state will spend $2.01 million on easements in Washington County this year under the program. The county will contribute $1.34 million to the purchases out of the agricultural transfer tax fund.

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The 25 farms are ranked based on several criteria and will be bought in order until the funds are exhausted. Eric Seifarth, the county's land preservation planner, has said the average farmland easement costs about $250,000.

The rankings, which are compiled by the county's Agricultural Advisory Board, take into account several criteria, including the farms' soil type, productivity, size, economic viability and proximity to other easements. The program is used to preserve crop, dairy and beef farms, as well as woodlands.

Betty Jane Oller's 98-acre crop farm on Watery Lane south of Ringgold Pike topped the list of properties eligible for the easements.

Other farms in the list's top five include the Roth Meadowbrook farm on Cedar Ridge Road, a 211-acre woodland property in Big Pool, Samuel Hunter's beef farm on Welty Church Road, and Scott and Karen Hamilton's 102-acre crop farm.

According to the MALPP Web site, the program has preserved almost 500,000 acres of farmland in Maryland since it was created in 1977.




If you go



What: Public hearing for farmland preservation easements

Where: Washington County Administration Building, 100 W. Washington St., Room 226

When: Today, 11 a.m.

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