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Howard County Farm Request Termination of Farmland Easement

Maryland Agricultural Land 

Maryland ConservationPreservation Foundation (MALPF) will hold a public hearing on January 13, 2014, on the request by Elizabeth Mullinix to terminate the agricultural land preservation easement that the Foundation purchased in her farm more than 25 years ago. This 142-acre Howard County farm, known as the “Clevenger Farm,” is located on Union Chapel Road, Woodbine, MD 21797.

The hearing, which is required by State law, will take place in the Dining Hall, Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, at 6:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend and comment upon the application to terminate this easement. Written comments may also be sent through February 13, 2014, to: Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, attn: Carol S. West, Executive Director.

The Foundation still is considering the Mullinix Brothers Partnership’s request to terminate easements that the Foundation holds in three other Howard County farms that the Partnership owns. The Partnership has requested that the Foundation conduct a contested case hearing on these applications, which will be held in 2014.

Created by State law in 1977, MALPF acquires easements in farmland and woodland, restricting the land’s use, in order to provide sources of agricultural products within the State for the citizens of the State and to protect agricultural land and woodland as open-space land. The Foundati

on’s mission is designed to preserve not only Maryland’s farms but also the State’s farm economy. To date, the Foundation has preserved approximately 286,000 acres of farmland on more than 2,100 Maryland farms. In Howard County, the Foundation has preserved 3,970 acres on 31 farms, at a cost of $5.5 million. State-wide, taking into account all government programs, more than 800,000 acres of farmland have been preserved in this State. This represents the greatest ratio of farmland preserved to total landmass of any state in the country.

Although farmland preservation easements that the Foundation now requires are perpetual, if the easement’s purchase was approved for purchase by the Maryland Board of Public Works on or before September 30, 2004, the landowner, 25 years after its purchase, may request that the easement be reviewed for possible termination. The easement, however, may be terminated only if (1) the county governing body, after receiving the recommendation of the county agricultural preservation advisory board, approves it; (2) the Foundation determines that profitable farming is no longer feasible on the land; and (3) the Maryland Board of Public Works approves termination. If an easement is terminated, the current and any future landowner would have the ability to subdivide and develop the land as provided under local zoning laws and regulations.

According to a survey conducted by the Schaefer Center for Public Policy in 2011, 97 percent of respondents believe that it is important that the State preserve farmland for farming. Marylanders believe that Maryland farms and, in particular, the products they produce and the open-space they provide, should remain a part of the State’s culture and economy.