Commissioners consider agricultural land preservation program
By Wayne Tompkins
Miami-Dade County commissioners today (9/20) will consider a plan to preserve agricultural land and open space.
The proposed Purchase of Development Rights program would allow for farmland preservation through the purchase of conservation easements placing limits on residential development rights.
The county's agricultural lands "are a unique and economically important resource," County Manager George Burgess said. "These lands support an important agricultural industry that includes tropical fruits, vegetables, livestock, aquaculture and nursery and greenhouse crops."
When county residents approved the Building Better Communities General Obligation Bonds program in November 2004, a portion included $30 million to preserve viable farmland through the acquisition of development rights on property suitable for agriculture. The funds are available incrementally until 2017, with $4 million available for immediate use, Mr. Burgess said.
The voluntary program allows the county to acquire a property's residential development rights through the purchase of a conservation easement. This, in turn, allows the county to limit the housing density on agricultural land.
The purchase of these development rights will ensure that the related properties remain undeveloped and available for agricultural uses, Mr. Burgess said.
To be eligible, a property must be designated as agriculture or open land on the county's land use plan map and have at least 70% of its land devoted to active farming.
The easements must remain in place for at least 25 years.
Building Better Communities General Obligation Bonds will fund the program, and county staffers will seek grants from the US Department of Agriculture, the State of Florida and private not-for-profits.
The agricultural manager will monitor the program and serve as its administrator.
County commission approval will be needed before the purchase of any conservation easement. Independent property appraisers will be used.