Some Carroll farmers who would like to preserve their land might soon have a choice: Sell their development rights for cash, or donate them to the county land trust for a tax write-off.
Under an initiative proposed by members of the private, nonprofit Carroll County Land Trust, the county would give a farmers property tax credits for the land on which their houses sit. The initiative would complement a state program that offers property tax credits to landowners who donate their development rights. The Maryland Environmental Trust offers the tax write-off for farmland, but does not give credits for the land on which the farmer lives.
"We're not under any illusions," said Ned Cueman, easement coordinator for the land trust, which helps preserve farmland and open space. "We know this will cost the county money in withheld tax revenue, but we believe it would have a terrific payout."
The county has about 300,000 acres of farmland and has set a goal of preserving at least one-third of that by 2020. Since 1978, when Carroll began protecting farmland from development, the county has preserved about 34,000 acres.
The tax credit proposal presented to the Board of County Commissioners yesterday would help local officials meet their goal, Cueman said, by making the donation of development rights - known as conservation easements - a more attractive option for farmers. The program would be voluntary.
Under the proposal, farmers would receive a tax credit of up to $50 per acre, each year for 15 years, if they donate their easements to the Carroll County Land Trust in perpetuity.