The Clearfield County Farmland Preservation Board considered the Farmland Preservation Program’s inaugural parcel of property at its quarterly meeting Tuesday.
The Farmland Preservation Board was created by the Clearfield County Commissioners to oversee the county’s farmland preservation program. The preservation program is voluntary – allowing farmers whose land applications have been accepted to receive a stipend from the state for placing their farmland into an agricultural security zone for perpetuity. Once farmland is placed in an agriculture security zone it must continue to have an agricultural use such as farmland, ranchland, vineyards or timbering. The program ensures landowners that their real estate, accepted into the program, can be continued to be used for agricultural purposes.
Clearfield County’s program, developed to preserve farmland and encourage family-owned farms, has officially been in existence since December 2016 but this is its initial application for land to be accepted into the program.
Board Chairman Eric Fox said the program has received an application for an easement purchase for approximately 185 acres located in Goshen Township. He reported the owners, James and Valerie Sankey, enrolled the property in Goshen Township’s Agriculture Security Area and worked with Clearfield County Conservation District Agriculture Technician Nick Hepfl to complete the application.
Fox reported Clearfield County received stipends from the state for both 2019 and 2020 totaling approximately $166,000. He said the more the program is used, the more funding Clearfield County would receive from the state.
Members ranked the parcel based on the system found in the program’s guidelines.
According to information in the guidelines, the current application and future requests will be contemplated using a two-part examination that includes a land evaluation and site assessment. The land evaluation looks at the quality of the soil of the land in the land parcel up for consideration and the site assessment takes into account location factors that may have a current or future viability of a farm including factors that affect the relative importance of the site for agriculture.
The application will now be forwarded to the Clearfield County Planning Department for administration. That process includes clearing any liens on the property and conducting an appraisal of the land. The information will then be sent back to the county’s Farmland Preservation Board to allow the board to negotiate a price per acre in hopes it can purchase the easement for the preservation program.
Fox said he is hopeful the board can approve the acquisition at its next meeting. “Hopefully at the board’s October meeting, everything will be ready to move forward and the application will be ready to move on to the state for consideration,” he explained.
Once a sale has been negotiated between the board and the land owner, the application will be sent to the state Farmland Preservation Board for approval. Once the authorization has been given Clearfield County Planning will initiate the settlement procedures.
In other business the board increased the amount of the application review deposit fee from $2,500 to $3,000. Fox noted the original amount in the program guidelines did not fully cover the cost for the land appraisal and title abstracting. There will also be a caveat noting if a land survey is required the applicant must pay the additional cost on top of the $3,000 deposit fee.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Clearfield County Administrative Building.