SNOW HILL – Plans to pursue expansion of a conservation program in Worcester County are moving forward.
Next week, county staff are expected to review a plan to establish a third Rural Legacy Area (RLA) in the Bishopville area with the Worcester County Planning Commission. After that, the proposal would be presented to the Worcester County Commissioners.
“It’s the planning commission, then on to the commissioners for their endorsement, then we will send that and the application to the state,” said Bob Mitchell, director of environmental programs for the county.
In the summer, Worcester County’s Department of Environmental Programs hosted a public meeting to gauge interest in establishing a third Rural Legacy Area (RLA) in the northern part of the county. The creation of another Rural Legacy Area would give the county access to more funding to encourage agricultural preservation on large properties in the Showell and Bishopville areas.
“With the immense pressure from Sussex County development north of the border, there is an urgent need to protect these lands from fragmentation due to potential subdivision of these lands for dwelling units,” Mitchell said at the time.
While the county has two Rural Legacy Areas already, designating a third would mean more properties could be eligible for easements. In order to set up a third RLA, the county would need demonstrated support from landowners in the proposed area. Mitchell said the county was targeting the Showell and Bishopville areas for the expanded conservation efforts because of the quality farmland in the area as well as the proximity to Sussex County, where development is underway at a rapid pace.
“This area has some of the highest quality farmland soils in the county, has been farmed for over a century, and if the owners continue to develop at max density, it would fragment farmland to the point that farming would not be viable anymore,” he said in August.
The proposal will be presented Thursday, Jan. 4, during the 1 p.m. meeting of the Worcester County Planning Commission. Meeting materials will be posted on the county’s website, co.worcester.md.us.