Wicomico Conservation Easement Approved

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County approved the acquisition of a conservation easement on Porter Mill Road this week.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted to approve a Rural Legacy Area easement acquisition on Porter Mill Road.

Frank McKenzie, chief of technical services and environmental planning for Wicomico County, said the landowners will receive $405,000 in exchange for a conservation easement that limits development potential on the property.

“What we are requesting tonight is your approval for us to proceed with this acquisition to purchase the easement of 270 acres,” he said.

As part of the easement agreement, the property owners will be allowed to retain an existing dwelling unit and establish one new single-family dwelling and one accessory dwelling unit on existing parcels. However, they would forfeit rights to any further subdivision activity on the site.

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McKenzie told the council the county’s zoning code allowed 17 dwelling units on the Porter Mill Road property.

“Ultimately, we are reducing development potential in an area that is agricultural in nature,” he said.

For this project, McKenzie said the county would partner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Department of the Navy, which contributes to the purchase of conservation easements that fall under its flight paths.

He noted that the Navy would contribute $202,500, while the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Wicomico Forest Conservation Fund would contribute $150,000 and $15,000, respectively.

“In this project, we are only requesting $37,500 from the Rural Legacy Program,” he said.

With administrative costs, appraisal work and legal fees, the conservation easement for the Porter Mill Road property totaled $460,270.

“They estimate that the easement value is $1,495 per acre, for a total of $405,000 …,” McKenzie said. “In addition to that, there are other funds that are necessary to make this deal happen, and that includes legal work, the cost of appraisal, survey work and several other items.”

The council voted 5-0 to approve the acquisition of the conservation easement.

Since its inception in 2002, the Wicomico County Rural Legacy Program has protected more than 4,500 acres of land.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.