Harford County Executive Barry Glassman signed legislation on May 18 enacting new incentives to protect key agricultural land that might otherwise be sold for development. The legislation provides cash incentives for farmland owners to enter the county’s existing agricultural preservation program. The new incentives make the county program more competitive with the state’s program, which has limited availability. The new law affects two specified areas adjacent to the county’s development envelope, one in Jarrettsville/Forest Hill and another in Churchville, in support of the Green Infrastructure Plan established in HarfordNEXT, the countywide master plan.
“My administration proposed this legislation to help protect Harford County’s rural heritage and our rural villages, and to focus growth in the areas that are intended for development,” said County Executive Barry Glassman.
Funding for the incentive program will come from a portion of the county’s transfer tax revenue, which also funds Harford County’s existing agricultural preservation program. The one-time cash incentives are estimated at $1,000 per acre and will be based on criteria approved by the Dept. of Planning & Zoning. The incentive payments would be in addition to the price paid to qualifying landowners for selling development rights easements in the existing county program. That price is based on formulas and an evaluation of the underlying land. Once development rights are purchased by the county, new non-agricultural structures that a property owner may build on the property are severely restricted, thereby forestalling residential or other types of development.
The legislation entitled “Agricultural Preservation Easement Incentive” was passed by the County Council on May 18; it becomes effective July 17, 2017. The full text of the legislation is published on the county website at http://hcgweb01.harfordcountymd.gov/Legislation/Bill/BillDetail/17-005.