BUCKHANNON — On behalf of the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board, Lowell Peterson provided an overview of the program’s purpose and an annual update to Commissioners Thursday morning.
Peterson explained that the Farmland Protection Board has spent a significant amount of time tweaking their ranking system regarding properties. When they receive an application, of the first activities they must complete is to rank the property that is involved in the application. These properties are ranked based on their usefulness for agricultural purposes, as well as their suitability for development. The ranking system has a maximum of 725 points that can be achieved.
According to Peterson, their new ranking system gives them a new numerical value, indicating whether or not they should move forward with the application in terms of purchasing the easement. They reportedly take into consideration the size of property and the soil that is present (highly suitable for agriculture or moderately suitable), determine if the topography is suitable for farming, and assess the current usage of the property. The status of mineral rights is particularly important as well because if they belong to someone else, then that might down the road affect its suitability for farming, Peterson noted. They also take into consideration the attributes for development and the sale potential. “How likely is it to sale? How quickly will it sell? How close is it to other developed property? Is it close to other industrial usage? How easily accessible is the property? Access to public water and sewer?” Peterson explained are all elements the Farmland Protection Board considers. He added that other features taken into consideration include the historical or recreation value of the property.
Currently, the board is requiring half of the 725 points to be met before they will proceed forward with application.
Peterson also reviewed some of the things the Farmland Protection Board has been doing to promote the program and the whole concept of farmland protection, as well as conservation easement in West Virginia. He noted they have run newspaper articles in The Record Delta and requested mailings from the Assessor’s Office for consideration of assessment for farming purposes. They have been going out to evaluate each one of the properties that have applied through the Upshur County Assessor’s Office for consideration. The board is also reaching out to all potential persons who may have a suitable property, he specified. Peterson acknowledged their organization has had very good cooperation from Assessor Dustin Zickefoose, as well.
The Farmland Protection Board was created in 2012. Since then, they have received a total of six formal applications. Of those six, only one has been completed. They have one property currently in the process of being purchased now, according to Peterson. Only two out of the six applications have met criteria based on the ranking system, he expressed.
Peterson thanked the County Commissioners for their promptness to fill any vacancies that occur on the board for the organization, in addition to the quality of people they have selected.
One board member that Peterson wanted to specifically acknowledge was Dr. Joseph Reed, who serves as the board’s Treasurer. Peterson read a resolution of appreciation on behalf of the Farmland Protection Board and presented the resolution to Dr. Reed personally on Thursday morning.