MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in support of a bill providing greater flexibility to county agricultural preservation programs before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 14, 2018. The bill (HB 620) was sponsored by Delegate Eric Luedtke.
HB 620 provides that the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) may recertify a county agricultural
preservation program for 5 years, instead of 3 years under current law, if they determine that the county program is consistently effective in the achievement of preservation goals. The bill also
extends from 3 years to 6 years the amount of time that a county may spend agriculture transfer tax revenue before the county must remit the money to the Comptroller.
Knapp noted that the bill provided both administrative benefits as well as increasing the ability of a county program to complete worthy preservation projects. From MACo’s testimony:
Assembling projects for preservation under a county agricultural program can be both complex and time-consuming, especially when the project involves multiple properties. Extending the
current remittance time period from 3 to 6 years allows counties additional time to manage more complex projects or accumulate enough funds to afford a purchase that would otherwise be
beyond the local program’s reach. As the bill’s fiscal note states, there is minimal impact on MALPF.
Likewise, extending the time period from 3 years to 5 years for the recertification of county agricultural preservation programs that have proven to be consistently effective lessens an
administrative burden on the county programs, as well as MDP and MALPF. It can also limit uncertainty for well-performing programs regarding the recertification process. The bill does not
alter any recertification criteria and MDP and MALPF may still choose to recertify a program for just 3 years.
The Maryland Farm Bureau, Partners for Open Space, and the Montgomery Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board also testified in support of the bill. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation offered an amendment that would allow MDP and MALPF to review a program that has been granted a 5-year recertification after just 3 years if there is a material change in the county’s land use ordinance that would increase development in targeted agricultural preservation areas. No one testified in opposition to the bill.
There is no Senate cross-file to HB 620.