Commissioners Told $11K Could Preserve Farmland

SNOW HILL – A contribution of just $11,000 from Worcester County could leverage enough state money to preserve as much as 142 acres of farmland in the south of the county.

The $11,200 minimum match required by the state would be paid from Worcester County’s share of the state agricultural transfer tax, $10,000, with $1,200 paid from the county general fund.

The payments are part of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPF), which buys up building rights on farmland to preserve green space. As a certified local MALPF program, Worcester County can retain 75 percent of agricultural transfer tax, instead of 33 percent, and my get more matching funds, when available.

The County Commissioners approved the $11,200 match unanimously.

“This leverages hundreds of thousands of dollars that are brought into the county to purchase easements,” said county Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman.

More funding could possibly be generated through a higher match from Worcester County. Recent legislation could also increase the state contribution for Worcester conservation easements, Coyman said.

While $11,200 is the minimum county contribution, the county has the option of contributing more later, according to Coyman.          

The county may have to increase its own contribution beyond the agricultural transfer tax, because those tax revenues have continued to decrease, Commissioner Judy Boggs said.

“It would be very helpful to increase our contribution,” Coyman said.

“Not this year,” said County Commission President Louise Gulyas.

Worcester County will present four properties for easement purchase to the state this year, though not all will get the nod from Maryland.

“We expect that probably one easement will be purchased next year,” said Coyman.

The priority property, ranked number one of the four, comprises 142 acres southeast of Pocomoke City and is owned by Louise and Willard Outten. Three-quarters of the land is made up of prime soils. The couple first applied to sell a conservation easement on the property in 2002.

A conservation easement on the Outten property would extinguish nine potential residential lots.