MacRo LTD Blog

What’s up with Farm and Land Preservation in Frederick County?

While turkeys plead for preservation this time of year, is it still a priority to preserve valued real estate for future generations of farmers?

Preserve Turkeys-Eat HamLast week I was interviewed by Deborah Bowers, Editor and Publisher of Farmland Preservation Report, and online magazine that is “The nation’s top news source covering policies and practices that protect farmland and urban edge agriculture.”

Deborah asked me several questions regarding my impressions of the state of farmland preservation in Frederick County and its surrounding counties.  My full answers are available by a link found at the end of this post.

I am very impressed with the service that the FPR provides.  It is a great resource for staying on top of the preservation efforts throughout the country.  I look forward to continue sharing  information with her in the future.

This morning she posted the result of several interviews she had on the topic, which she has given me permission to post on the MacRo Report Blog.  Here is her article:

Money is low, interest high in local Maryland programs

FREDERICK, MD – In Maryland, where a number of local farmland preservation programs are funded by revenues from taxes on real estate transfers, local matching dollars for the state program are scarce, but interest remains strong, according to program administrators.

Not only are there fewer transfers of property, but the dollars being paid for property are significantly less, meaning fewer dollars for land protection. The upside is a major slowdown in sprawl, the downside is, a slowdown and backlog in preservation programs.

One real estate expert in Frederick County confirms that farmland not zoned for development is not attracting developers these days, and the value of residential building lots has dropped by more than half.

“Where a perked two-acre rural lot may have sold for $350,000 in 2005, today it may sell for $165,000 or less.  In some cases the cost of developing lots exceeds the combined gross value of the finished lots it creates,” Rocky Mackintosh, president of MacRo, Ltd., told FPR.

Mackintosh, who has been in real estate for 40 years, said very few investors are looking for raw land. Such land “is not attractive to the development community … most now will only seek land that is zoned, and will go even further and not actually make the purchase until the approval of an unconditional site plan is achieved…”

Mackintosh, who writes the MacRo Report Blog, said he believes the Frederick market will be strong in the future.

While Mackintosh said he felt farmland values had remained fairly stable, Tim Blaser, Frederick program administrator, said he has received calls over the last year about the county’s Critical Farms Program, which helps beginning farmers buy land. But the county program, which depends on real estate transfer tax revenue for funding, is broke.

“I have had a lot of calls about the Critical Farms Program (which also has no funding) due to prospective farmers actually feeling as if they now have a chance to buy some farms now that the boom times are over and there are [fewer] speculators out there competing for those farms.”

“Interest in land preservation is booming” due to fewer development options, Blaser said. “This would be a great time to make headway if we had the money.”

In neighboring Washington County, revenues from the local agricultural transfer tax, a state tax collected locally, is generating “next to nothing” in revenue, said program director Eric Siefarth. The county had 30 applications, but it will depend on state dollars to fund what applications are finally approved. “There is substantial interest. We’ve had several [applications] come in for next year,” Siefarth said.

In Howard County, program activity is the strongest in years, said director Joy Levy. This year the program had 13 applicants and the county was able to make seven offers, she said. “This batch will deplete our funding for a while,” she said.

Click here to review Rocky’s full interview with Deborah Bowers, entitled: The State of Farm and Land Preservation in Frederick County Maryland.

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