The Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved agricultural preservation districts for 15 properties that total about 2,676 acres.
Owners of the properties have voluntarily agreed to a 10-year restriction on their right to develop the properties in return for property tax credits, said Eric Seifarth, the county rural preservation administrator.
During that period, owners of the properties will not pay county property tax on their agricultural land or buildings and will receive a credit of up to $711 on their farmhouse, Seifarth said.
At an average of $13 per acre per year, the county will forego about $348,000 in tax revenue for those 15 properties during the preservation period, he said.
In addition to promoting continued agricultural production to supply the region with food and fiber, preventing development in rural areas saves the county from the costs of building additional schools, roads and other infrastructure in those areas, Seifarth said.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the easements after a public hearing in which Steve Ernst of Clear Spring, a member of the Agricultural Advisory Board, spoke in favor of the preservation program. No one else spoke at the hearing.
The properties approved for easements include 10 in the Clear Spring area, two in the Hancock area, two in the Big Pool area and one near Smithsburg.