Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 18:22
Town Board wants local farmers to study proposed county map before voting on revised state program
The Fredonia Town Board put off a decision on whether to participate in the state‚Äôs revised farmland preservation program until next month.
The Working Lands Initiative is the state program which offers tax credits to landowners who agree to keep their property in agricultural use for 35 years.
Before local farmers can participate in the program, the township needs to decide whether it wants to take part in the program, and to designate which parcels should be eligible. That designation must be included in the town‚Äôs 2035 comprehensive land-use plan.
The county‚Äôs Planning and Parks Department has been working with the town in developing maps that identify where prime agricultural parcels are located.
In the Town of Fredonia‚Äôs case, more than half of the community was earmarked as possible preservation land.
The Plan Commission recommended that the town participate in the farmland preservation program earlier this month, but the Town Board was reluctant to take action last week because few local farmers have been able to study the county‚Äôs proposed map to determine if their parcels would be included in the program.
‚ÄúThe town‚Äôs 2035 Comprehensive Plan dovetails with the farmland preservation plan,‚ÄĚ Andrew Struck, the county‚Äôs planning and parks director, told the board last week.
Several local communities, including the towns of Port Washington and Grafton, have chosen not to take part in the program.
‚ÄúIt is still up to the town whether to participate, but if we don‚Äôt take part in the program (local landowners) aren‚Äôt eligible for the tax credits,‚ÄĚ Town Chairman Richard Mueller said.
Supr. Chris Janik said the farmland preservation program is far less objectionable to landowners since the state has eliminated the penalty for pulling out of the program.
‚ÄúThis has a lot less impact now that the land conversion fee doesn‚Äôt exist. The question is, ‚ÄėCould it come back?‚Äô‚ÄĚ Janik asked Struck.
‚ÄúI would never presume to guess what could happen in Madison, but if the law is changed, the town would probably get a chance to react and drop out of the program,‚ÄĚ Struck said.
The board is expected to vote on the program at its February meeting.