Pursuant to the authority contained in Md. Code, Agricultural Article, Subtitle 5, Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), the County Commissioners have appointed an Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board (“Advisory Board”) and adopted ordinances to implement the program. This section establishes county criteria in accord with state regulations, but does not reference all state regulations for participation in the program.
   (A)   Protection of normal agricultural activities.
      (1)   In accordance with statutory provisions referenced above, agricultural land preservation districts may be established in the county. Such districts shall provide for the protection of normal agricultural activities in the districts through the following provisions:
         (a)   Any farm use of land is permitted;
         (b)   Operation of machinery used in farm production or the primary processing of agricultural products is permitted at all times;
         (c)   Normal agricultural activities and operations in accordance with accepted husbandry practices, which do not cause bodily injury or directly endanger human health, are permitted and preferred activities though they may produce normal agriculturally related noise and odors; and
         (d)   The sale of farm products grown or produced on the farm where the sales are made is permitted.
      (2)   These provisions are applicable to all Carroll County agricultural land preservation districts established in accordance with the Md. Code, Agriculture Article.
   (B)   Establishment of districts; district agreements.
      (1)   In accordance with the Md. Code, Agriculture Article, §§ 2-501 through 2-515, and with the COMAR 15.15.01, agricultural land preservation district establishment shall be accomplished by this subchapter, only upon formal notification to the County Commissioners by the MALPF. Such notification shall include a copy of the agricultural land preservation district agreement signed by all parties and as recorded among the Land Records of Carroll County.
      (2)   All such district agreements, together with property descriptions, shall be maintained in an official file and be available from the County Department of Planning, County Office Building, 225 North Center Street, Westminster, Maryland, 21157.
   (C)   Priorities for the preservation of agricultural land.  Pursuant to the authority contained in Md. Code, Agriculture Article, Subtitle 5, the following priorities for the preservation of agricultural land in the county are established. These priorities shall be used by the Advisory Board and the County Commissioners in the formation of agricultural districts and in the approval of easement sales. These priorities shall, however, be considered and applied as general guidelines that permit discretion in certain cases.
      (1)   Creation of agricultural land preservation districts.
         (a)   Productive agricultural land.
            1.   The purpose of the program in the county is to preserve productive agricultural land. The emphasis is on active, working farms. The active agricultural uses should make a significant contribution to the productive capabilities of the farm or significantly enhance its worth for preservation.
            2.   Subject to division (C)(1)(b)2., woodland areas may qualify as active agricultural uses.
         (b)   Soil types.
            1.   State regulations require that the majority of land on each farm petitioning for district status must consist of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Capability Classes I, II, and III, or USDA Woodland Groups 1 and 2. The regulations allow exceptions for land of lower general capability if proper documentation concerning long-term productivity and farm management practices is supplied. In the county there is a soil classification, Mt. Airy C2 slope, which is highly productive but not of Class I, II, or III. It shall be the policy to recommend that an exception be made for such land upon a finding by the Advisory Board that the land is highly productive, actively farmed, and properly managed and subject to the submission of the necessary supporting documentation.
            2.   Property owners who wish to use woodland areas for district status must demonstrate that at least 50% of the woodland soils fall within USDA Woodland Groups 1 and 2 and must submit, with their district petition, a forest conservation and management plan prepared by a qualified professional forester. The Advisory Board may require such owners to execute forest conservation and management agreements to ensure the proper and timely implementation of their management plans. The Advisory Board may freely seek the advice of the State Project Forester for the county in all matters related to the qualifications or management of any woodland areas admitted or to be admitted to the program.
         (c)   Specialized production.
            1.   State regulations authorize a relaxation of the soil and size standards where the land is used for specialized production such as dairying, livestock and poultry production, and fruit and berry production. The county will adhere to this standard. However, the Advisory Board will seek to ensure that the land is in genuine agricultural production. The creation of a specialized use to gain eligibility for the program is discouraged, and the Advisory Board shall examine the historical use of the land.
            2.   To qualify a farm as a specialized operation, one of the above-enumerated uses must be extensive and intensive in relation to the farm size.
            3.   The Advisory Board shall not relax soil and size standards for specialized operations where it appears such a relaxation of standards would be contrary to the best interests of the program.
         (d)   Size.  State regulations require a minimum district size of 50 acres unless the proposed district is contiguous to an existing district in which case the state has no minimum size criteria. The Advisory Board has a policy to recommend only districts that exceed 20 acres in size. For noncontiguous districts between 50 and 75 acres, the Advisory Board may establish a policy that is more restrictive than state policy.
         (e)   Whole farms.
            1.   The Advisory Board seeks the participation of whole farming units in the preservation program.
            2.   Minimal acreage around an existing principal dwelling may be surveyed and withheld from the district, provided that such action shall not result in the elimination of productive agricultural land.
         (f)   Restricted land.  Where land is already subject to some legal restriction (other than zoning), the nature of that restriction should be noted on the district and easement sale applications. Such restrictions may affect district eligibility and/or easement sale priority.
         (g)   Initial districts.  The formation of districts in areas where none presently exist is encouraged. However, in recommending approval of any such district, the Advisory Board shall seek to ensure that sufficient land is available for expansion of the district.
         (h)   Subdivision/off conveyances.  In most cases, the Advisory Board shall not recommend approval for district creation when all of the off conveyances and residential subdivision lots to which the property is entitled have been created. If some but not all of the off conveyances and/or subdivision lots allowed by the Zoning Chapter have been created, the Advisory Board shall consider the impact of this development on the agricultural use of the remaining land. In addition, the Advisory Board shall also consider the relative value of preserving property that has limited potential for future residential development. When considering property from which lots have been created since February 14, 1978, the Advisory Board may require an owner to relinquish future lot rights that he or she would have been entitled to under the preservation program. Such agreement of the owner shall be made a part of the district agreement and any easement documents. Every application for district creation shall contain a statement delineating the lots created, if any, since February 14, 1978. The county shall inform any owner who processes a subdivision or off conveyance of this policy.
         (i)   Lot approvals for owners and their children.  Unless specifically provided for by ordinance, participation in the preservation program does not exempt landowners from local land use controls that govern the subdivision and use of land. Lot creation, as permitted under the Preservation Program, must receive the required local agency approvals and must also be approved by the MLAPF Board of Trustees. The Advisory Board delegates to the local Program Manager the responsibility for reviewing and securing the approvals for such requests for lots. The Program Manager shall keep the Advisory Board informed of requests for lots.
         (j)   Information on productive land.  The Advisory Board may publish maps delineating where agricultural land exists and where district formation and easement sale are encouraged.
      (2)   Sale of development rights easements.
         (a)   Offers to sell.  Offers to sell development rights easements must be made directly to the MALPF prior to application deadlines established by the state. The sale of an easement requires a landowner to have a conservation plan as required by the state. An offer to sell an easement is completely voluntary on the part of the property owner.
         (b)   Standards for approval.  State law provides that a local jurisdiction must approve any offer to sell an easement made within that jurisdiction before the state may consider the offer to sell. The state has a policy of establishing the maximum number of applications that can be approved by a county. If this policy prevents the county from approving all applications, the applications shall be ranked for approval according to a scoring system recommended by the Advisory Board and approved by the County Commissioners.
         (c)   State law permits the use of a county priority system to determine the order in which easement offers are made.  The county shall ask the state to rank applications according to the discount of the landowner’s asking price, unless at least 90 days prior to an application deadline the Advisory Board recommends and the County Commissioners approve an alternate priority system.
         (d)   Full extent of property.  An offer to sell an easement must be made on the full extent of any property described in the recorded district agreement covering that property (less any acreage exclusions provided for by state law); multiple or partial offers cannot be made by splitting acreages described under one district agreement, even if those acreages are described in separate deeds.
(2004 Code, § 73-2)  (Ord. 02-18, passed 11-21-2002)