Agricultural Land Preservation

Agricultural Land Preservation

Farm and forestland preservation benefits all Calvert County citizens – not just the farm owners. Land preservation provides scenic beauty which contributes to our rural character. Farms use very little of our public services and currently add $110 million annually to the County revenues. Farm preservation helps to maintain our values and through the farmers’ markets, agri-tourism and farm-to-table movement, connects the farmers with the rest of the community, giving all the people a vested interest in the success of the program.

The award-winning nationally-recognized Calvert County program began in 1978. After 40 years, we have permanently preserved 29,000 acres, predominantly through easement sales to the State and to developers that transfer the housing density from the farms to subdivisions that are more suitable for residential development.

This funding has been a stimulus to many farmers. In my case, I sold an easement and development rights from our 320-acre farm to purchase an adjacent farm which was lost to our family 50 years ago as the farm was distributed among siblings. I also used the funds to pay estate taxes after my father’s death and the remainder helped us to start a new enterprise to replace our tobacco operation.

The income from easements and/or development rights has also been used by many other farmers to keep their farms whole during estate planning. Some invest the money for retirement and others use it to fund new ventures to keep their farms viable. Regardless of how the funds are used, the farms remain in perpetuity for all to reap the benefits and stabilize the land use in the Farm and Forest District.

For the most part, the program has worked as it was intended; however, the regulations need updating and new uses need to be created for development rights.

It is a finite program. Once our goals are reached, funding will be minimal to run the program. Young people are starting to come back to the land to farm. With the Washington metro area so close, the potential to sell our products is vast and through agricultural preservation, the land will be there to feed our citizens for generations to come.

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Creating Vibrant Town Centers

town center

To protect our rural character and keep our county economically stable, we must create vibrant town centers that attract people to live, shop, and enjoy a sense of place.  A mix of housing types is essential, allowing for community building that gives its residents a vested interest in its prosperity.  Town centers should have an approved plan in place that encourages growth that enhances the town’s character and provides shopping experiences that are unique to that town.   Enforcement of architectural standards and signage are essential to accomplishing this non-generic feel of a town. 

The dividing effect of Rte 4 in several of our town centers creates a challenge to this type of development, but building communities that are connected with access roadways and sidewalks as well as public transportation efforts, can improve the cohesiveness of the town.  Providing green spaces, museums, libraries, space for farmers markets, and community centers also attract residents and tourists alike to spend time and money within these boundaries. 

The Sage Policy Group recommended in their Strategic Plan for Economic Development that the county support local entrepreneurs and offer tax incentives for vineyards, agritourism and farm to table operations to help create uniqueness in building our business base.  Creating employment opportunities should also be a consideration in planning what can go into a town center.  

Local businesses keep their revenues invested in the county, unlike chain stores, such as Walmart, Safeway and Marshalls, that only provide local property tax revenues and send their earnings elsewhere to corporate headquarters.  

Development of a town center must be clearly defined so as not to contribute to urban sprawl and the blurring of land uses. I believe we can create vibrant town centers without compromising the uniqueness of Calvert County.

What Is "Rural Character"?

Rural character in Calvert County is a sense of country created by cultivated fields, grazing livestock, protected natural resource areas of water, wetlands, woodland, and parkland for public enjoyment.  It improves our quality of life by protecting out heritage, shaping our values based on an agrarian society and provides us with much needed serenity as we go through the hustle bustle of our everyday lives.  Supporting rural preservation can provide economic opportunity for farms, home based occupations, tourism, and other businesses that are compatible with rural areas. 

The best way to preserve agricultural land is to make the farms profitable.  We have permanently preserved over 29,000 acres of farm and forestland in this county.  Preserved lands do not require the infrastructure and public services that residential and commercial areas require.  By utilizing the expertise of our agricultural marketing specialist and providing incentives to buy local, we can create thriving agribusinesses that keep revenue in the county and ties the citizens to our farm community. 

Planned town centers are an integral part of maintaining the balance of our development and can guard against urban sprawl that blurs the land uses.

Education in Calvert County

Good teachers are the foundation of our children’s education.  Recruitment and retention should be a high priority, as well as providing for their continuing education and advancement.  The Board of County Commissioners needs to work with the Board of Education to honor the commitment to the teachers’ contracts and encourage priority funding for the goals of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (the Kirwan Commission).

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A Balanced Community is a Happy Community

There are many aspects that comprise a community: residential, commercial, industrial, agriculture, natural resources, tourism, and recreational opportunities.  Each of these are interdependent.  Allowing one to outweigh another can throw everything out of balance.  Maintaining that “balance” leads to a healthy, productive community that can grow and thrive without compromising its special attributes.  A county with a sense of itself, makes its people want to be a part of its development, giving all citizens a vested interest in the future.

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Here's to Calvert's Finest

I attended the crab feast at the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department on July 26th, and despite the monsoon, it was a great turnout. So glad for their fundraising efforts. We citizens of Calvert County are very fortunate to have such dedicated people who volunteer their time and risk their lives every day to keep us safe. There are many meals, family events, work time and a good night's sleep that are interrupted serving as a fire and rescue volunteer. It is a brother and sisterhood-a family, who have each other's back. I'm so proud of my father in-law, the late Kenneth Wells, brother in-law, Mike Wells, husband, Walt Wells, son, Charlie Wells and his wife Katie. Together they have dedicated over 150 years to the fire and rescue services. Our family is only one of many who volunteer to put their life on the line for others. Here's to Calvert County's finest!

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