Cecil County OKs tax break meant to curb development Bill would aid farmers who protect acreage

state program sought

Farmland preservation

September 11, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The Cecil County Board of Commissioners has approved a tax-break bill designed to limit residential development, William C. Manlove, one of the three commissioners said yesterday.

Manlove said the bill will give farmers who put their land into a preservation program a 50 percent to 75 percent reduction in agriculture property taxes.

The measure is aimed at convincing the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation of the county's interest in protecting its farmland and could lead to the establishment of a county land preservation program certified by the state.

Such a designation, Manlove said, could provide the county with about $500,000 a year in state funding for farmland preservation.

"It shows that we are willing to spend some money to save our farmland," he said.

"We're putting the money where our mouth is."

The tax break is expected to cost the county about $31,000 a year in lost revenue.

The tax break does not apply to farmhouses, Manlove said, and "won't be a windfall for farmers. The biggest farm will only see about a $600 to $700 tax reduction."

Cecil County has about 153,000 acres devoted to agriculture. It has been losing between 650 acres and 700 acres a year to development, according to William Kilby, a dairy farmer from Port Deposit and president of the Cecil Land Trust.

The trust -- a nonprofit volunteer group dedicated to preserving open space in the county -- was the force behind the legislation.

Agriculture, including the processing and distribution of food products, is a $54.4 million business that accounts for about 60 percent of the county's total industrial production.

"It's in the best interest of nearly everyone in the county to maintain our farmland," Kilby said.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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