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Group hopes to add Haggard property

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday night signed a letter of commitment for a portion of funding for a farm to be put in a land trust.
Harrison County planner Eric Wise, on behalf of the Land Conservation Committee, said the potential easement is a 172-acre farm owned by Steve Haggard off of Corydon-Ramsey Road.
The George Rogers Clark land trust submitted the proposal on Haggard’s behalf following a November workshop.
Wise said he thought it would be a well-received application.
‘Everything I’ve heard so far has been real positive,’ he said.
The estimated value of the easement is $344,000. The USDA will provide a $172,000 grant and the county will provide 25-percent value of the easement. The landowner, in this case, would donate $86,000 as a charitable donation.
Harrison County began the program, aimed to protect the rural character of the county and maintain quality of life for residents, several years ago.
The Harrison County Land Conservation Program offers residents the opportunity to preserve agricultural land, forest land and open spaces in order to maintain a long-term business environment for agriculture and forestry in Harrison County.
Through grants from the Harrison County Community Foundation, the land conservation committee has preserved four tracts of land so far.
The Harrison County Council approved $128,000 in 2018 funding for potential matching funds for a federal program administered by the USDA.
The heart of the program is the conservation easement, which is placed on the property and monitored by a land trust, usually the George Rogers Clark Trust.
‘Best thing I found to compare it to would be a residential subdivision developer draws up a set of restrictions he feels would protect that residential value of that development,’ Wise said last year while describing the program. ‘And those are recorded, and the property is developed accordingly. With a conservation easement, same thing; the landowner thinks of all the restrictions they believe would best protect the agriculture value of the land.
‘The landowner still owns it; they can still sell it, rent it or farm it,’ Wise continued. ‘Only thing we’re looking for is it remains in one large piece.’
The land is conserved, permanently, regardless if it transfers ownership. The only thing that can trump the conservation easement is eminent domain from the state or federal government.
The benefit for residents, Wise said, is it ensures the property stays ‘as is’ in perpetuity. It also, in theory, may lower estate taxes through lower assessed value, he said.
The program covers the legal fees associated with each farm/tract being placed in the trust.
Property taxes still must be paid.
‘The bottom line is, the purpose of this program is to preserve farmland and, if the property owner isn’t interested in preserving this farmland, he won’t enter into this process in the first place,’ Council Chair Gary Davis said of the voluntary program. ‘So, you’re not penalizing him; you’re helping him to preserve the farm for future generations.’
In other business, the commissioners reappointed the following board members:
Regional Sewer District ‘ Darin Duncan and Tom Tucker.
Alcohol Beverage Board ‘ Joe Shireman.
Tourism Commission ‘ Michael Wiseman and Linda McKim Gilliland.
Milltown Whiskey Run Fire District ‘ Bill Booth and Jerry Carman.
The commissioners learned juvenile probation received a $133,000 grant for 2018 for two positions related to combating truancy in Harrison County schools. The grant, awarded by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, will help bridge the gap of services between juvenile probation and the county schools.
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.