The Carroll Board of County Commissioners moved one step closer to setting aside another 109 acres of county farmland for land preservation, this time in Westminster.
On Aug. 3, commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of an easement on property at 2525 Salem Bottom Road in Westminster, which is being bought by Douglas and Sandra Zepp. The property is being sold by the Estate of Lillian G. Muller.
According to commissioners, the Zepps will use the property for growing crops such as corn and soy beans in addition to running a Christmas tree business. The Zepps could not be reached for comment.
The purchase was made as part of the county’s Critical Farms Program. The Zepps will be compensated for their purchase with a lump-sum payment of $574,350, based on the land’s appraised value of $1,094,000.
The appraisal was conducted by John McDonough Jr. & Associates and reviewed by an independent valuation consultant, according to county government documents.
The Critical Farms Program in Carroll County helps people “buy a farm that may be in risk of development,” said J.P. Smith, Jr., program manager of Carroll County’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program.
Purchase assistance obligates the applicant to enter into a permanent agricultural conservation easement with the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.
At settlement of the property, the amount paid by Carroll County government toward the land purchase is returned to the county and any remaining dollars go to the owner.
The Critical Farms Program is designed to boost the county’s agricultural economy as well as its land preservation efforts by assisting farmers in the purchase of farmland, the county website states.
“We pay up to 52.5% of the purchase price or our apprised value of the land only, which ever is lower,” Smith said. “In return, the contract buyer applies to [the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation] and will receive a good portion of that money back. Ninety percent of the time or more we get all of that cash back. So it’s always there to preserve more farms for the future.”
Once the property goes to settlement, it will add to the county’s goal of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland or more, Smith said, in an interview after the meeting. Through a collaboration of agricultural interests and county officials, the 100,000 acres goal was determined to be the minimum acreage needed to maintain a viable agricultural base in Carroll County.
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“Right now we have 77,487 acres in land preservation,” Smith said. “We don’t count [the property being purchased by the Zepps] until they go to settlement.”
More than 65 landowners in Carroll County have participated in the Critical Farms Program, with a total of 8,000 acres preserved, Smith said.
He said that the county has plenty of applicants now in the process of several of the county’s agricultural land preservation programs, including the Critical Farms Program.
According to the Carroll County government website, the county’s agricultural land preservation effort is the most successful in the state, “preserving more farms and more acres through the purchase of land preservation easements than any other county in Maryland.”
In May, the commissioners purchased an easement of about 105 acres on a property owned by Stephen R. Boose at 2352 Tyrone Road in Westminster. The buyer requested to be compensated by a lump-sum payment and agreed to the purchase price of $604,902.72.
In April, two Westminster properties owned by James Warehime were purchased by the county for preservation as well. One farm, accessed from Old Hanover Road, consists of 40 acres and second farm, accessed from Cherry Town Road, consists of about 70 acres, for a combined total of 110 acres.