The Frederick County Commissioners, at their November 18 meeting, approved one of two competing versions of “transferable development rights” for farm property owners, allowing them to move development rights from one property to another. The decision raised some local controversy, hailed by farm advocates but derided by environmental groups.
Officials reviewed two potential versions of a program that would allow farmers to sell their subdivision rights to other agricultural property owners. One option was designed by attorney Rand Weinberg on behalf of the Frederick County Farm Bureau. The other was crafted by a work group of county staff and stakeholders representing development, real estate, agricultural preservation and farming.
In both versions, the county would place an easement on the selling property to make sure it stays in agriculture.
The Farm Bureau proposal would create a broader program that would permit more trading. In addition, it does not include a requirement to cluster lots.
The second proposal would place more limits on which properties are eligible to send growth rights and on the parcels that could receive them. A clustering requirement is part of the second option.
Commissioners ended up choosing the Farm Bureau plan. Commissioner David Gray cast the single vote in opposition.
The proposal moved forward even though the Frederick County Planning Commission had recommended denial of the program. County staff also advised against the program after concluding that it would not preserve land overall, since growth rights would not disappear but simply relocate. The lack of a consensus around the program and risk of jeopardizing a state exemption also weighed against moving forward, staff said.