Countywide program - Formed in 1980 - researched by Suzanne Heflin

OVERVIEW - The geographically largest county in Maryland, Frederick is one of the state's top three counties in the market value of agricultural commodities. It also ranks (2003) in the top 12 local programs nationwide in agricultural easement acres acquired. The county participates in both state programs, Maryland Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation (MALPF) and Rural Legacy, and has a small county-funded program. Patterned on Carroll County's experience, it also operates a Critical Farms Program, that funds the purchase of threatened farms by full-time farmers and places them under easement. An Installment Purchase Agreement (IPA) arrangement for funding easements was started in 2002. Frederick participates with Montgomery and Washington counties in a joint Rural Legacy project, the Mid Maryland project, to protect historic and environmental as well as agricultural resources.

EASEMENT ACTIVITY - Approximately 20,000 agricultural acres under easement, including MALPF, Rural Legacy, county purchase of development rights (PDR), and Critical Farms programs. MALPF acquisitions account for most of the easements-about 15,600 acres. Easements in Critical Farms parcels are 1,200 acres.
Goals: 100,000 farmland acres under easement by 2020-overall goal of retaining 200,000 acres for agriculture use.
Other Easement Programs: Maryland Environmental Trust- 6,632 agricultural acres in 63 transactions; Private Land Trusts-3,032 acres; Green Print Program-984 acres. Federal easements to protect views of historic battlefields-145 acres.
Total Agricultural Easements in County: Approximately 30,000 acres.

Acquisition Spending to Date: Not available.
Revenues: State MALPF and Rural Legacy funds, local matches from the county part of state agricultural land transfer tax, and county general funds. A 10 to 20 year IPA arrangement instituted in 2002 is funded from a dedicated share of the county recordation tax and is expected to generate about $2.3 million a year. County government contributions to all easement programs from local sources are about $3.8 million annually. County up-front cash payments to farm purchasers under the Critical Farms program are usually reimbursed by later MALPF payments for easements.

GOVERNANCE - The Frederick County Agricultural Preservation Program is housed in the Department of Planning and Zoning. A five-member citizens' Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board, appointed by County Commissioners, oversees the program.

STAFF AND OPERATING BUDGET - The staff includes one full-time permanent person and a full-time temporary person to administer the Rural Legacy program. The annual operating budget is approximately $180,000. Administrative costs per acquisition are estimated at $3,000 to $6,000.

ORIGINS - The creation of agricultural easement programs in Frederick County was preceded in 1976 by the adoption of new agricultural zoning that reduced the allowable residential units per farm parcel from 49 to three. Interest on the part of the agricultural community in more permanent protection measures pushed the county to join the MALPF program in 1980, with the first easement acquired in 1981. Landowner interest in selling easements expanded when per acre easement prices increased from the $1,000 to the $2,000 range.

ACQUISITION PROCESS AND STRATEGY - The county commissioners make final easement acquisition decisions, with earlier reviews by the Planning Commission and the Advisory Board. The quantitative criteria leave little room for local discretion.
Rating of Parcels: Quantitative. COUNTY AND MALPF: 200 Point ranking system, with the majority weight given to agricultural quality and lesser weights assigned to development proximity, parcel size and contiguity, farm management and district status.
Other Criteria: COUNTY/STATE PDR: Enrollment in Agricultural Preservation Districts, 50 acres or larger, Class I-III soils. RURAL LEGACY: Location in a Rural Legacy area. CRITICAL FARMS: Applicant must be full-time farmer.

CONNECTIONS TO LOCAL PLANNING AND LAND USE POLICIES - Frederick County's general policy is to direct growth to incorporated municipalities and communities with existing public water and sewer systems, thus diverting development from agricultural areas. Implementing tools for this general policy include priority funding areas for infrastructure, the Adequate Public Facilities ordinance, community growth boundaries and eight planning regions. This policy is not entirely successful, however, since urban concentrations have developed in several unincorporated areas.
Zoning: Agricultural zoning has a residential density of three units on 25 acres (3:25)-1:50 additional if clustered. Residential lots are limited to two acres and clustered if more than three will be used. Remainder parcels are not required to be placed in easement (only noted on plat).

2000 Population: 195,277
1990-2000 Population Change: + 45,069 residents; +30 percent

215,927 acres
Conversion to Urban Use: Farmland conversions in 1991-2000 totaled 8,094 acres, while 7,242 acres were put under easement. (State conversion data)

1997 Market Value: $101.6 million Number of Farms: 1,304
Principal Commodities: Dairy products, cattle and calves, poultry and poultry products

Agricultural easements are dispersed in generally small parcels throughout the county, outside of the town of Frederick where most of the developed land is located. A large concentrated block of easements is forming around Burkittsville.