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Harford executive sends legislation county council to put 25 farm properties into agricultural preservation

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman sent legislation to the County Council that would bring 25 farm properties into the county’s agricultural preservation program, the administration announced Thursday.

Those properties, which were not named, represent 1,589 acres of farmland, according to a news release. All qualified applicants to the program were accepted this year — a first in the county’s history.

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It would cost approximately $8.8 million to put the properties into preservation, according Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for the county government.

If approved by the council, the acreage preserved or pending settlement in state and local preservation programs would total 61,604 acres, which is 26.4% of Harford County’s land mass, according to the statement. Harford’s agricultural preservation program is funded by revenue from the transfer tax, half of which must go toward agricultural preservation efforts and half to school construction.

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“Harford County’s longstanding goal has been to protect 75,000 acres for future generations, and I want to get as close to that as we can by the end of my term,” Glassman said in the statement. “I encourage the County Council to help advance our goal and protect this precious farmland forever.”

Glassman’s second and final term as county executive ends in January 2023. On April 15, he announced plans run for comptroller of Maryland and is, thus far, the only Republican to enter the race.

Last fall, the County Council granted easements on 15 properties encompassing approximately 1,600 acres at a cost of about $9.5 million. In 2019, the county spent $4.58 million to purchase development rights from the owners of the seven properties.

The agricultural preservation program is voluntary, with the county purchasing easements on land that owners wish to see preserved in perpetuity. The county’s conservation program is more flexible than the state’s program, however, and — with approval — the land can still be used for purposes other than farming, including as wedding venues, breweries and wineries.

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