Pennsylvania - ADAMS COUNTY
Countywide program - Formed in 1989 - researched by Deborah Bowers
OVERVIEW - Noted for its apple production and Civil War history, Adams County is in the southern tier of Pennsylvania counties on the Maryland border. As compared to nearby Maryland communities, Adams has inexpensive land and less restrictive land use regulations. As a result, the county attracts homebuyers from the greater Baltimore area and other Maryland locations. Gettysburg is the county seat and the urban center of the county. The Gettysburg National Military Park brings thousands of visitors annually and creates a national identity for this county of under 95,000 people. Until a bond issue was authorized in early 2003, the local match for state funds came from general county appropriations and penalties paid for the conversion of farmland.
EASEMENT ACTIVITY - 11,600 agricultural acres preserved
on 75 properties: orchards, dairy, livestock, hay.
Goals: 50,000 acres.
Other Easement Programs: Land Conservancy of Adams County accepts easement donations on agricultural and natural lands. Mount Joy Township established in 2003 a township-only program with its own funds.
Total Agricultural Easements in County: Approximately 12,000 acres.
Acquisition Spending to Date: $19.3 million
Revenues: State allocations ($15.4 million), county general appropriations ($3.9 million) and federal funds ($100,000). Local revenues for the program also are generated by penalties paid for converted agricultural land enrolled in the state's Clean and Green program. In early 2003, the County Commissioners authorized a $2 million bond issue for easement acquisitions.
GOVERNANCE - The Adams County Agricultural Lands Preservation Board (ALPB) oversees the easement program. Its nine members are appointed to three-year terms by the County Commissioners. The program's staff are administratively independent of other county departments.
STAFF AND OPERATING BUDGET - The staff includes the director, a stewardship administrator and a part-time administrative assistant. The director reports directly to the County Commissioners. Approximate annual operating budget is $140,000. The staff is housed in an agricultural center along with other agricultural agencies such as the conservation district staff.
ORIGINS - The Adams County Commissioners responded promptly to the creation of the state program by appointing the ALPB and establishing a staff position in 1989. The first easement was acquired in 1991.
ACQUISITION PROCESS AND STRATEGY - The staff conducts
ranking of applications and the ALPB reviews and decides which farms will receive
offers. Farms selected are approved by the county commissioners; the selections
are then forwarded to the state board for approval and funding. There is no
Rating of Parcels: Quantitative. A Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) system is used. Under Land Evaluation, agricultural quality (soils) is the top factor with 40 percent of the overall score. The Site Assessment portion, similar to other Pennsylvania county LESA formulas, has three major components: 1) development potential and proximity; 2) farm management; and 3) proximity to other preserved parcels. Compatibility with the county's Comprehensive Plan land use map is also a factor.
Other Criteria: Minimum state-designated criteria are parcel size or contiguity, location in an Agricultural Security Area, soils and harvested cropland. Adams County applies additional minimum criteria-conservation plan in place on all tillable land to be under easement, not located in Gettysburg National Military Park, and a minimum land evaluation score.
CONNECTIONS TO LOCAL PLANNING AND LAND USE POLICIES
- The Adams County Comprehensive Plan contains an agricultural resource protection
plan. The county's planning staff helps townships develop agricultural protection
ordinances that respond to the county's recommendations.
Zoning: Townships are responsible for zoning. Half of Adams' 21 townships have adopted some type of agricultural protection zoning, including sliding scale with maximum lot size, area-based allocation and percentage-of-parcel restrictions. The remaining townships have either no zoning or minimum lot size zoning-no restriction on number of lots on a given parcel as long as each is a certain minimum size (one or two acres).
2000 Population: 91,292
1990-2000 Population Change: +13,018 residents; +16 percent
178,780 acres: 77 percent cropland
Conversion to Urban Use: Comparative conversion data not available.
OTHER AGRICULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS
1997 Market Value: $150 million Number of Farms: 984
Principal Commodities: Poultry and poultry products, fruits, nuts, berries, dairy products
MAP NARRATIVE - EASEMENT GEOGRAPHY (PROGRAM MAP)
Easements are located throughout the county in a generally isolated and scattered pattern. Exceptions are two notable blocks of easements, largely east of Gettysburg and in Franklin Township north of Gettysburg.