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Westminster farm easement will prohibit development on seven lots in Carroll County

As Carroll County continues to work to preserve prime agricultural land, a new Westminster farm easement will retire seven housing opportunities on a property which will now be kept available for farming in perpetuity.

The Board of County Commissioners at their meeting Thursday approved a fund transfer in the amount of $65,607.79 to purchase an agricultural easement through the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation program for the Red Properties, LLC farm located at 5140 Grand Valley Road, Westminster.

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Created by the General Assembly in 1977, MALPF purchases agricultural preservation easements that forever restrict development on prime farmland and woodland. Since its inception, the program has permanently preserved land in each of Maryland’s 23 counties, representing a public investment of more than $682 million.

At the end of fiscal year 2016, MALPF had purchased easements on a cumulative total of 2,218 properties, permanently preserving about 300,916 acres.

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In November of 2019, Carroll commissioners approved the submission of Red Properties, LLC to the program for the 38-acre property located at 5140 Grand Valley Road, Westminster.

This easement would prohibit development on seven lots in District 1 that have been preliminarily approved by the Carroll County Department of Development Review and eliminate any conflicts of residential development in a heavily farmed area of Carroll County.

According to J.P. Smith, agriculture and land preservation manager for the county, Red Properties originally planned to develop Grand Valley Road property but decided against it.

Although Smith doesn’t anticipate Red Properties farming the land, he mentioned it could be leased. He added at this point, the land is best suited for crop farming.

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At Thursday’s meeting, Smith said the Westminster farm had been in the MALPF system for two years without receiving a purchase offer from the state program.

However, MALPF has now responded with an insufficient funds offer, meaning that there are not sufficient funds in the state program to cover the entire bid.

This past year owners of another farm in the county dropped out of the program, so the MALPF offer then moved down the list of other eligible properties, like the Grand Valley Road property.

The bid price for the easement is $265,342. Available county and state budgets for the MALPF program will only cover a total bid of $199,734.21 which would be a state share of $119,840.53 and a county share of $79,893.68.

The Carroll County Advisory Board, on Sept. 1 approved the recommendation to transfer $65,607.79 from the County Agricultural Preservation Program budget to the county MALPF budget to fund the total bid of $265,342.

This is a transfer from one approved county budget to another and not an increase in funding to the County Agricultural Preservation program.

“I don’t necessarily think we need to make a habit of helping with state funding but in this instance, I think it’s a good idea,” Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said.

Smith shared with the Times the county now has more than 76,000 acres of land to be reserved in perpetuity and farming.

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