Measure would let county sell bonds to save farms


Harford County voters will cast ballots Tuesday on a charter amendment that would allow the county to borrow money on the bond market to preserve farm land by purchasing easements. ..

A vote for Question A means the voter agrees to allow the county government to buy easement rights through a bond-financing program. It would also permit the county to repay the money in a new way.

Usually, county bonds are repaid annually in relatively equal amounts. Each payment may not vary by more than 50 percent from any other payment.

The charter change would allow a greater variation in payments from year to year for the purchase of easement rights only.

County Council members say a 1 percent tax on real estate transfers would be needed to repay money the county borrows to finance the preservation program. The council would have to enact a separate law before charging the transfer tax.

The agriculture-preservation plan being drafted by county planners will include a proposal to start a program to purchase land development rights in rural areas.

Development rights are the number of houses that can be built on a rural site, usually one house for every 10 acres of agricultural land.

The program's goal is to encourage farmers to sell their land development rights to the county, rather than to developers, thereby preserving the land.

Under the proposal, farmers would receive a lump sum payment for the development rights at the end of 20 years, receiving tax-free interest payments on the selling price in the interim.

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