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Council considers preserving 2 more farmland parcels

Another push to preserve two pieces of farmland is being considered by the Harrison County Council.

The Harrison County Land Conservation Program offers the opportunity to preserve agricultural and forest land and open spaces in order to maintain a long-term business environment for agriculture and forestry in Harrison County. The land is permanently conserved, even if the owner sells to someone else. Only eminent domain from the state or federal government can override the conservation easement.

Property owners can donate their property or it can be purchased. Six properties have already gone to the conservation program.

“We’ve got five farms that have been completed under the donation program and one farm under the purchase program,” said Eric Wise, Harrison County planner, who brought a request Monday to the Harrison County Council on behalf of the Harrison County Land Conservation Committee.

Wise is asking for $90,000 to protect two farms in the county. Half of the funds would be used as matching funds for a federal grant to preserve a 153-acre farm located along Moberly Road in Spencer Township.

The grant is the same federal program that was discussed last year, but the county no longer needs to spend between $114,000 and $172,000. The expense is now $45,000.

“The second half of the funding would either be used for the funding that would be available in 2020 under the Ranch Land Program or possibly used as a donation easement,” Wise said.

Councilwoman Jennie Capelle said she would like to see an updated strategic program for the county to know if this decision fits the future of the county.

The Harrison County Community Foundation has begun that process and is looking to secure funds through a grant to help get all the towns in the county complete a comprehensive plan that could be part of an overall county plan.

“There’s kind of a double-edged sword with that,” Wise said. “Once you designate areas for farmland, zoning is going to follow. That’s one of the things I like about this program. If the person wants to stay and farm, this is the way the county can help them do that.”

He added this is a voluntary program rather than simply zoning all land for agriculture and taking the choice away from residents.

The council could decide to fund the request at its next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, at the government center in Corydon.

The Harrison County Land Conservation Program formed in 2006 to provide financial assistance to landowners interested in voluntarily conserving their land and was the first county-level land conservation program in Indiana.

In other county business Monday night, the seven-member council unanimously approved the $120,000 request to renovate the May & Joe Rhoads Memorial Pool in Corydon. Work is expected to be completed in time to open on schedule Memorial Day weekend.