The intent of any agricultural land preservation effort is to prevent development of farm land for any other purpose than agricultural in perpetuity. The process lets farmers sell their property’s development rights with the provision that in the future, the land can be sold for only agriculture use.
A town hall meeting is set for March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Tyden Center to supply more information, answer questions and take comments from the public on proposed changes in the Agricultural Preservation Ordinance and a proposed Open Space Ordinance.
Some parts of the revised Agricultural Preservation Ordinance proposed at the Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday are below. The full text of the 12-page proposed ordinance is available at www.barrycounty.org. in the March 5 commission meeting packet.
Agricultural investment is not sustainable when the market value of farmland exceeds its agricultural value. Farmland which has greater development potential and market value than its agricultural value does not attract sustained agricultural investment and eventually is sold to non-farmers and removed from the agricultural use.
The present board will change to the Barry County Conservation Easement (BCCE) board, with one member from the planning commission, three with agricultural interests, one with real estate or development interests, one with local conservation interests, one township official and one non-voting county commissioner.
The County Board of Commissioners is authorized to purchase the development rights throughout the county by purchase, gift, grant, bequest, devise, covenant or contract.
The County is authorized to seek grants from federal and state governments and private foundations, organizations and individuals for funding expenditures incurred in carrying out this ordinance.
The BCCE will recommend a points based appraisal formula, score all applicants, prioritize applications, recommend a price to be offered to the property owner, establish monitoring procedures, prepare recommendations to the County Board for applications for state, federal or other sources of grant funds and assist the purchase of development /agricultural conservation easements.
The BCCE will give notice of the application cycle at least 90 days before the application deadline with ads in a newspaper of general circulation and the county website.
Upon agreement of the purchase and sale or acquisition of development rights by the property owner and the Board of Commissioners, the County and the property owner shall execute an agricultural conservation easement approved by the BCCE and the County Board of Commissioners that will perpetually protect the parcel’s agricultural value or use of the farmland.
The value of development rights is determined as the difference between the fair market value of the property with development rights and the fair market value of the property based on its agricultural use.
Funds from the repurchase of development/agricultural conservation easements go into a special BCCE fund to be used to purchase additional development/agricultural rights.
After review of the application, county commissioners may approve, approve subject to specific conditions, deny it, stating specific reasons, or postpose action on the application to a specified date.
An Open Space Preservation Ordinance, once proposed by the Agricultural Preservation Board, but not approved by commissioners, is also proposed.
The ordinance is to protect open space to preserve the rural character and scenic attributes of Barry County through permanent conservation easements prohibiting development and has similar conditions for obtaining the easements.