Connecticut - STATE PROGRAM (Town of Woodstock information illustrates local planning patterns.)
Statewide program - Formed in 1978 - researched by Al Sokolow

OVERVIEW - This is one of the few programs in the country (the others are Delaware, Massachusetts, and Vermont) in which a state government directly manages transactions and holds easements, and is not primarily a funder of local programs. A small staff administers a program that currently spends about $2 million a year in state bond money to acquire easements. Connecticut is the fourth most densely populated state in the nation. A few local governments (towns) participate with the state on a cost-share basis or hold their own easements. In the Town of Woodstock easements are seen as helping to maintain a low density, rural residential community, as in other towns with significant farmland in the eastern part of the state.

EASEMENT ACTIVITY - 28,850 acres in 200 properties, representing about 8 percent of the state's farmland. Easements average about 140 acres. The Town of Woodstock contains 900 agricultural easement acres in 10 farms held by the state-among the largest totals for individual towns.
Goals: 130,000 agricultural acres-estimated as sufficient to meet the needs for 50 percent of the state's demand for milk and 70 percent of in-season fresh fruit and vegetables.
Other Easement Programs: Connecticut Farmland Trust formed in 2002. Some farmland in forestry easements acquired by the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association.

Acquisition Spending to Date: $84.2 million
Revenues: Revenues come almost exclusively from state bonds-paid off from general funds-with $87.7 million authorized so far. The funds are appropriated annually from the state's bond budget. A small amount of federal funds were received to date. A few townships cost-share with the state for agricultural and environmental easements. The Town of Woodstock appropriates $50,000 annually from its general budget for open space spending.

GOVERNANCE - The Farm Preservation Program is housed in the state Department of Agriculture.

STAFF AND OPERATING BUDGET - The program now has a two-person staff, reduced through attrition and budget cuts from five in the early 1990s. Appraisal and legal work are contracted out. The annual operating budget is $175,000 to $200,000.

ORIGINS - The program was created by state legislation in 1978, following the work of a gubernatorial commission, the Task Force for the Preservation of Agricultural Land, established in 1974. This was a response to landowner interest in creating alternatives to urban conversion. First easements acquired in 1979.

ACQUISITION PROCESS AND STRATEGY - The Commissioner of Agriculture makes final decisions. There is a two-step process. In the first, quantitative scoring determines initial eligibility. More discretionary factors are used in the second stage, including geographical targeting to cluster easements in areas with the best farms.
Rating of Parcels: Quantitative, for minimum eligibility. Agricultural quality is 50 percent; other top weights are parcel size, contiguity and farm management. Negative points are assigned for nearby intensive development and high cost.
Other Criteria: Geographical targeting. Anticipated costs, as determined by preliminary negotiations with landowners, may preclude further action on a transaction before the appraisal.

CONNECTIONS TO LOCAL PLANNING AND LAND USE POLICIES - Towns are the local planning and zoning authorities in Connecticut. The state requires each town to prepare a 10-Year Plan for Conservation and Development. In the Town of Woodstock the emphasis is on low density, rural residential land uses. Cluster development incentives (allowing 3/4 acre lots) require 40 percent open space dedication for parcels of at least 10 acres. The absence of public water and sewer facilities limits development. Woodstock's planning policies are typical for communities in eastern Connecticut which are more rural than towns in the western part of the state.
Zoning: Typical agricultural zoning in eastern Connecticut is one unit to two acres(1:2) without public water and sewer, and with a minimum amount of road frontage per parcel. Agricultural zoning is generally agricultural-residential-not exclusively agriculture. The Town of Woodstock does not have agricultural zoning, but farming is allowed as a right. The town recently downzoned its basic residential zone to a 1:2 density (from 1:1 1/4).

2000 Population: 3,405,565
1990-2000 Population Change: +118,449 residents; +3 percent

359,313 acres: 50 percent cropland
Conversion to Urban Use: 8,100 acres in five years from 1992-1997. (National Resources Inventory data)

1997 Market Value: $421 million Number of Farms: 3,687
Principal Commodities: Poultry and poultry products, diary products, aquiculture


Easements are scattered throughout the state, with a few areas of concentration. Most are in eastern Connecticut, the principal agricultural region. Central and western Connecticut are more suburban and less agricultural. Town of Woodstock easements are primarily located in the eastern part, an area of relatively large farms.