Tuesday night the County Council approved our latest round of farmland preservation, permanently preserving another 1,500 acres on 25 properties and eliminating 111 houses from being built. All paid for from one percent of real-estate transfers and purchases taking place in the county and not a single dollar from the property and income taxes that we all pay.
My family was one of the earliest participants in the state’s ag preservation program. We wanted to ensure that Bonita Farm stayed in agriculture and would never be turned into a housing development. We’ve also encouraged other farming families to consider preserving their land for future generations. I was proud to serve on the Maryland Ag Land Preservation Foundation board and as chair of the Maryland Young Farmers Advisory Board, having been appointed by Gov. Bob Ehrlich.
The benefits of farmland preservation are clear. In addition to preserving our rural heritage, it also provides stability for the agricultural sector of our economy, which employs thousands of county residents and accounts for a high proportion of our county’s productive output. Additionally, it helps to mitigate flooding and protects our natural resources.
But perhaps most importantly, preservation saves taxpayer-funded resources by not extending costly infrastructure further out into rural areas not planned for growth and averts future strain on our roads, schools, and public safety services.
The 60,000+ acres of permanently preserved land in Harford County has allowed us to extinguish over 6,000 development rights. That’s 6,000 residences that will never be built to house 16,000 additional residents driving 10,000 more cars on our roads. That’s 3,500 school-aged students to fill at least another elementary, middle, and high school that the taxpayers did not need to build thanks to land preservation. Our program’s success is one of the reasons Harford County is a desirable place to live.
Recently there have been rumblings that some folks think that we have preserved enough land and that we should redirect the dedicated transfer tax revenue to other governmental expenditures. But the great thing about this funding source is that it requires that development fund preservation in a balanced approach to growth. I will vigorously fight any efforts to end this program, and I have no doubt that the cost of preserving land is insignificant compared to the costs of not preserving land.
Land preservation will always be one of the top priorities of my administration. I hope you will join me in working to protect this incredible program.