County likely to OK $11.2 million to preserve land

April 04, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

The County Council is expected to agree tonight to spend $11.2 million to preserve another 3 square miles of rural farmland.

The additions -- 10 properties consisting of 1,861 acres -- would swell the total number of rural acres in the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program to 15,794 and mark the resumption of the county's highly successful land reservation program.

The program was put on hold in February 1992 when council members complained that the county was entering agreements with owners whose property might not be developed anyway. They said the county, which pays owners a fee to keep their properties from being developed, was accepting too many small parcels isolated from other parcels and was not getting the best value for its dollar.

Since then, the criteria have been revised to assure the purchase of larger and more contiguous parcels. One of the properties in the current batch of applicants is 723 acres. The other nine average 126 acres.

Several properties under consideration are next to farms already in the preservation program. If the properties are accepted as expected at today's 8 p.m. legislative session, there will be several rural stretches of the county with more than 1,000 acres of undeveloped land.

Under the program, the county agrees to a price that is about half of what a developer might pay, but withholds payment of all but a small part of the purchase price for 30 years.

Meanwhile, participating landowners receive tax-free interest payments twice a year amounting to at least 6.5 percent on the principal.

The average price per acre of the current batch of properties is $6,027. Prices on the 10 properties range from a high of $6,600 an acre to a low of $3,372 an acre. The larger the parcel, the more money paid per acre. Tax-free interest on the largest parcel the current batch would amount to about $310,000 a year.

The Walter Beck and Fred Pipes families received the highest county bids -- the Beck family for its 723-acre Holly House Farm near Folly Quarter and Tridelphia Roads, and the Pipes family for its 148-acre Annandale Farm near Old Frederick Road and Route 32.

Albert Dorsey McCracken received the smallest offer -- $3,372- an acre for his 52-acre Honey-Do Farm near Routes 97 and 144.

In addition to the Walter Beck, Fred Pipes and Albert McCracken applications, the council will vote to night on seven other properties: the 155-acre Olde Home Farm owned by William and Martha Brendel; the 140-acre Woodford Farm owned by John and Susan Rhine; the 134-acre Collins Rose Hill Farm owned by Carville and Lillian Collins; the 133-acre Timberly Homestead owned by William B. Martin; the 106-acre Little House Farm owned by the William Beck family; the 93-acre Robert Inn Farm owned by Robert and Doris Bell; and the 135-acre farm near Penn Shop Road and Route 27 owned by the estate of Motie B. Cuthbertson.

Among other items included on the agenda are a $1.1 million request from the Public Works Department to pay the cost of snow and ice removal and a $50,000 request from the state's attorney to pay the cost of conducting the murder trial of the men who killed Pam Basu during a carjacking in 1992.

Money for both requests would come from the county's contingency reserves.

The council also will act on a request that it waive the county's competitive bidding requirements as a favor to the newly created Economic Development Authority. The authority once functioned as the county's Economic Development Department but is now an independent agency. It wants a waiver from the competitive bidding rule so that it can rent the furniture it used when still an arm of county government.

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