Agriculture and FarmlandProtectionPlan definition of ‘incentives or bonuses’ is increased ‘population density’. Community benefits means, among other things cited in the law, ‘specific physical, social or cultural benefits’ or cash, in lieu thereof. This is a legal opportunity that is not widely available in all parts of the country. While the mechanics of transfer of development rights (TDR) may be too daunting right now for GeneseeCounty, the use of incentive zoning could be used for purposes of farmland protection. Consider the fact that municipalities everywhere periodically ‘upzone’ parcels to higher densities or to different uses as they feel the community needs them. Rarely is anything required of the landowner or developer who has just benefited from a windfall of increased value to their property. Land within the development areas surrounding each of the towns and villages that has not yet been upzoned to its highest appropriate use could be covered by an overlay of incentive zoning. Rezoning requests to higher densities could be granted (if appropriate given other conditions community) in exchange for 1) the permanent protection of like acreage in an agricultural district in the same town, or 2) for a fee paid into the farmland protection fund to be used to leverage county and/or state dollars to buy development right easements on farmland in the same town. In this way, the entire community shares the benefits of the increased values created by the rezoning. 6 Develop new funding sources specifically for a farmland protection fund. A single source of funding for a PDR program for farmland protection in GeneseeCounty is not immediately apparent. However, the County’s situation is not unique. Other rural jurisdictions have found some creative ways to go about accomplishing their goals. Six things to consider when looking for funding: Protect your investment. How well do your land use regulations support the money you plan to raise and spend? Look to the future and put into place ways to tap the future engine of growth. Direct proceeds by law to a farmland protection fund. Working now to get enabling legislation from the state and then enacting a real estate transfer tax will not reap enormous rewards in the short term but by the time it can, it’s usually too late, politically, to enact such a tax. Look close to home for other opportunities such as the fee-in-lieu-of incentive zoning (see recommendation #5) to leverage a town’s power to create value. When farmland protection is viewed as ‘avoidance of future infrastructure costs’ for the towns and counties, raising money with bond issues to fund purchase of development rights makes fiscal sense. Columbia, MD 35
GeneseeCounty, New York Don’t underestimate the potential willingness of the non-farm public to pay more in taxes if they know it is going directly to farmland protection. Surveys and referenda around the country have shown a surprisingly positive reaction to property tax increases if they are dedicated to farmland protection. Think about building a reserve fund with multiple contributing sources until a) there are sufficient funds and b) a dedicated revenue source has been established to begin buying development rights. 7 Create a county ‘Enhanced Agricultural District Program’ for midterm protection of Farmland. Incorporating elements of tax relief for farmers and a ‘lease’ of development rights, the ‘Enhanced Agricultural District Program’ involves a voluntary commitment to restrict non-farm development for a period of 10 years, with automatic re-enrollment, in exchange for annual payments and priority in GeneseeCounty’s participation in the state’s PDR program. The overriding purpose of the ‘Enhanced Agricultural District Program’ is to help stabilize the land base while zoning is being strengthened, the County is raising funds for its match of PDR purchases, and the State increases it’s statewide funding for PDR. Since the holding costs of land are often cited by farmland owners in Genesee as a significant operational expense, this program would eliminate County, Town, and School District taxes. Special district taxes would apply as provided for in the standard NYS Agricultural Districts Program. Finally, the ‘Enhanced Agricultural District Program’ begins to integrate into a cohesive farmland protection effort a number of aspects of public policy that are designed to help agriculture but are currently applied in an uncoordinated way. These include agricultural districts with their right-to-farm protections, agricultural assessment, and investment of public dollars in the purchase of development rights. Eligibility. The following conditions would need to be met for a parcel to become a ‘FarmlandProtection District’: Located within the boundary of a New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Certified Agricultural District. Participating in an Agricultural District. Outside of a Smart Growth Development Area. Be at least 10 acres. Contain at least 35% New York State ‘Prime Soils’. Be developable (has some development rights based on regulations and soil capability and not covered by another restrictive easement). Meet any other state eligibility criteria. Components The farmland owner would enter into a 10-year option contract with the county agreeing not to develop the land to a non-farm use and to keep the land available for farming. 36 Agriculture and Community Development Services, Inc.