Over the past 20 years, about $17 million in county taxpayer money has been spent to buy easements and preserve farmland through the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Board. More than 38,000 of the county's fertile acres were saved from development.
But there was never a procedure defined for people who wanted to donate land easements, saving taxpayers money while helping farm families who might not otherwise be eligible for an easement purchase, said preservation board director Patty McCandless said.
That oversight was corrected Wednesday, when York County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a new program through which donations will be accepted.
McCandless said her office has long considered a donation program, but there wasn't a burning reason why it should be created until a family recently offered to donate two tracts.
The family, which McCandless declined to name, is otherwise ineligible to donate its land, less than 50 acres, she said. Under the traditional easement purchase programs, farms must meet standards for size and agriculture-related criteria such as soil quality, she said. The farms are then ranked and prioritized for easement purchase as funds are available, she said.
There are no soil quality requirements for donation, and there are fewer restrictions, she said.
But there must be at least 10 acres, located inside an agricultural security zone. The land can be forested, or used for crops, pasture, or grazing, she said.
Under the easement purchase program, some farming families had to cut out portions of their farms if they were, for example, wooded. Under the new program, people with portions of tracts that can't be preserved through the easement purchase program can choose to donate the remaining portions, she said.
County Commissioner Chris Reilly said the donation program benefits taxpayers, the county, and landowners. And his colleagues on the board agreed.
"I asked everybody, 'What's the downside?' and there isn't one," said commissioner Doug Hoke.
President Commissioner Steve Chronister said the vote was "probably the easiest resolution we ever passed."
For information about the program, call the York County Agricultural Land Preservation Board at 840-7400.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.