Program Helps Preserve Farms, Forestry Land
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Under the Working Lands Protection Plan, Moore County would be able to hang on to land used for farming and forestry -acreage rapidly dwindling in this age of development.
Jeremy R. Rust, long-range planner, introduced the Moore County Planning Board to the plan in a presentation at the board's meeting last week.
"This is a living, breathing document," Rust said, explaining that the plan can be revised according to needs.
The plan was developed to satisfy the requirements of the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservations Enabling Act, crafted to maintain or enhance small family-owned farms and the local agricultural economy, to maintain viable agricultural economic development and to identify possible funding sources for long-term support.
Inspiration comes from two Fort Bragg-related groups - the Base Realignment and Closure Regional Task Force (BRAC-RTF) and the Regional Land Use Advisory Commission. The task force has been planning growth associated with the BRAC expansion since 2006. The commission has updated the 2003 Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base Joint Land Use Study.
In evaluating development within five miles of the two installations, the commission came up with a recommendation that 34,420 acres of the 87,148 acres within that five-mile radius should remain as farms and forest, a factor that could allow the base to continue to serve its military training purpose.
The task force, working with Mount Olive College, secured a $400,000 grant from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund to complete plans for each of the 11 counties surrounding the military reservation.
To date, Bladen, Hoke and Harnett are the only counties that have adopted these plans. Other counties, in addition to Moore, are Cumberland, Sampson, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland and Lee.
Rust reminded the board that the first goal of the countywide land-use plan adopted in 1999 was to "preserve and protect the rural agricultural nature" of the county.
Among the ideas proposed is a request for the county to use revenues collected through present-use value rollback taxes for agricultural development purposes. Present-use rollback taxes are collected on property taxed at a lower rate as agricultural land although its proximity to higher-valued land used for development would normally call for a higher tax valuation.
The property is taxed at the lower farming rate as long as it is used for agricultural purposes, but if it is sold for development purposes, the owner must pay the difference between the lower rate and the higher rate of the levy.
This money is presently placed in county coffers for use in the general fund and is not set aside for any special purpose. An estimate of rollback collections was not offered.
Rust called attention to the expiration of the tobacco quota buyout program in four years and said that will leave many farmers with limited income to expand and modernize their operations. He also reported a study showing that the average farmer today is about 56 years old, an indication that farming is not attracting the younger generation.
The Moore County Soil and Water Conservation District is the lead agency in implementation of the plan, but the planning board was asked to provide three members to serve on a Working Lands Protection Plan Advisory Committee.
Other committee members would include three each from the conservation board of supervisors and the Agricultural dvisory Board, the body that administers the voluntary agricultural district program for the county.
Martha Blake, chairwoman of the Planning Board, volunteered to serve on the committee and sought two volunteers from the other eight members. Rodney Pickler and Robert Hayter volunteered.
The plan has already been presented to the conservation board and to the Agricultural Advisory Board.
Rust said that he has been working with several county departments in developing the presentation and thanked the Sandhills Photography Club for providing illustrations.
In introducing the plan, Rust emphasized that there is no required fiscal impact associated with the county. It is not a regulatory document and is not intended to be a catch-all or a cure-all. He called it a draft document that can be amended as needed.
In other business at the Thursday meeting, the board received updates on the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) transition and the Compre-hensive Transportation Plan (CTP).
Staff planner Andrew Gardner defined the CTP as a long-range multi-modal plan developed cooperatively with NCDOT, the Rural Planning Organization, county and municipal stakeholders. It emphasizes the local land use plan along with community and statewide goals in such areas as protection of strategic corridors.
Gardner said the plan is in the process of forming committees to address concerns. He cited four of the more sensitive locations in the Moore County pre-CTP planning process: a proposed bypass of Carthage, an N.C. 211 connector, improvements on N.C. 211 near West End, and a U.S. 1 bypass of Aberdeen and Southern Pines.
The widening of N.C. 211 from N.C. 73 in West End to Pinehurst is just getting started and is not on the "sensitive" location list.
The transition plan was described as shifting project selection authority from the state transportation board to the secretary of transportation. This was accomplished through an executive order signed by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2009.
As a result, NCDOT set up a work program and established a new strategic planning process designed to make sure that "limited funding is properly invested to achieve the best results possible."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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