Posted on

Task force continues to develop land preservation ordinance

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday night delayed action on a proposed land preservation ordinance, but did approve a task force to continue developing a program and working to improve the public’s understanding.
‘This is treading a lot of new ground for Harrison County,’ said Commissioner James Goldman. ‘We need to make sure the public understands it.’
He seconded Jim Heitkemper’s motion to allow the Farm, Forest and Open Space Task Force to establish a land conservation program.
Heitkemper chairs the task force.
The commissioners also authorized the task force to seek $2,000 in riverboat human services money to cover its expenses.
The commissioners put off the appointment of members to the task force, noting that some members may not be participating and should be replaced.
But Heitkemper said the task force was unanimous in its support of the proposed ordinance to establish the program.
He agreed to provide Goldman and fellow Commissioner J.R. Eckart records of attendance and minutes of the task force meetings prior to the appointment of the 11 task force members.
The proposed ordinance that would establish the voluntary land preservation program, designed to slow the development of farm land by working with land trust groups to buy out the farmers development rights. The farmer could continue working the land. Other properties entered into the program, such as forestry, would also be restricted to current use.
As reasons to develop a land preservation program, the task force notes in its proposed ordinance:
‘Harrison County’s agricultural and forestland is a unique and economically important resource. Harrison County has more than 108,000 acres of land currently in agricultural use’ which produced $42.43 million in agricultural products in 2002 and consistently ranks as one of the top-five producers of cattle in the state.
‘Harrison County’s farms are also an important part of the county’s cultural heritage and contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by county residents. Pre-serving agricultural land is important to help preserve farms and the farm economy and to preserve the rural character and scenic beauty of Harrison County …
‘Because agricultural land is an invaluable economic, cultural, natural and aesthetic resource, the county should make an effort to maintain enough agricultural land to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in the county.’
Federal land and ranch conservation grants are available to help pay for the program as well as other possible sources, but some county funds would likely be needed.