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Agricultural Preservation Information

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County Land Preservation Programs Presentation (.pdf)

Protected Lands Statistics & Map

Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board (APAB)

The Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board (APAB) is appointed to execute the following duties:

1) To advise the County Council with respect to the establishment of agricultural districts and the approval of purchases of easements by MALPF within the Cecil County;
2) To assist the County Council in review the status of agricultural districts and land under easement;
3) To advise MALPF concerning County priorities for agricultural preservation;
4) To approve of disapprove an application by the County for Certification under section 5-408 of the State Finance and Procurement Article;
5) To promote preservation of agriculture within the County by offering information and assistance to farmers with respect to establishment of districts and purchase of easements; and
6) To perform any other duties as assigned by the County.

Soil Conservation & Water Quality Plans

All agricultural land preservation programs require a valid Soil Conservation & Water Quality Plan (SCWQP) for each farm be on file with Cecil Soil Conservation District (CSCD). This is a requirement in order to qualify for the program, and is usually a condition within the terms of easement. Soil Conservation Plans are valid for 10 years with the current owner and/or operator of the farm. Further details about SCWQPs is available on CSCD's website. Should you have any questions about obtaining a soil conservation plan a Resource Conservationist with CSCD can be contacted at 410-398-4411 ext. 3.

Agricultural Preservation District

Establishing an Agricultural Preservation District is the first formal step toward an agricultural easement. The landowner agrees to not develop their property for a minimum five (5) year period, which the property owner will a 50% tax credit on the land value in return. Qualification criteria and application process are detailed in the fact sheet below.

Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) Program

The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF), in existence since 1977, is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the country. Its primary purpose is to preserve sufficient agricultural land in order to maintain a viable local base of food and fiber production for the present and future citizens of Maryland.

MALPF is a purchase of development rights program whereby the State purchases and retires the development rights from qualifying farms. The program is completely voluntary on the part of landowners and is dependent upon the cooperation of local governments. The program is administered at the county level through a Program Administrator and local Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board. The local Board reviews and makes recommendations on all applications related to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program. These include applications to sell permanent protective easements to the Foundation, create lot exclusions and subdivide properties in the preservation program. The Board also establishes policies for ranking districts in the easement purchase program.

Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR)

In 2005, the Cecil County Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program was established to help preserve agricultural lands within Cecil County, and supplement existing Federal, State and local preservation programs.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

Effective January 1, 2007 the Cecil County Code & Cecil County Zoning Ordinance were amended to include a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. It is the intent of the TDR regulations to encourage the preservation of natural resources and facilitate orderly growth in the County.

Executive Summary

In order to further implement its primary goal of preserving agricultural lands and directing growth to suitable areas around the Towns, the County's Comprehensive Plan recommends that the County consider the adoption of a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.  The Comprehensive Plan states that a TDR program should be considered "when new sewers and roads are programmed for water service areas."

In the spring of 2002, the County Commissioners appointed a Citizen Oversight to work with and provide guidance to the staff of the Office of Planning & Zoning and its consultant in the preparation of a TDR report that establishes the foundation of a TDR program for Cecil County and that also identifies important implementation issues that must be addressed for a successful TDR program.

The Oversight Committee evaluated the various components of a TDR program as well as specific case studies of other TDR programs throughout the Country.  In consideration of the needs of the County, the Oversight Committee established the fundamental elements of a TDR program.

Having established the foundation of a TDR program suitable for Cecil County, the Oversight committee then sought to address the more specific elements of the program relative to sending area and receiving area criteria as well as the appropriate ratio of sending to receiving area. The Oversight Committee opted for an incentive based TDR program that calls for properties zoned NAR and SAR to act as sending areas provided they meet certain minimum criteria, and that properties zoned SR and DR act as receiving areas provided they meet certain minimum criteria.

Perhaps the most important issues considered by the Oversight Committee were those related to the implementation of a successful TDR program for Cecil County.  Specifically, a successful program must be based on adequate water and sewer facilities in the receiving areas to accept not only the base density but the additional density transferred from the sending areas.  Such water and sewer availability is often provided by the Towns, and the developments utilizing the facilities are subject to annexation.  This report recommends that the County and the Towns begin a dialogue on the benefits of a TDR program to the Towns and County as a whole.

In addition, it was the consensus of the Oversight Committee that the regulations related to adequate public facilities and the development standards be strengthened in the receiving areas to assure that any higher densities achieved through the transfer of development rights does not have a negative impact on the surrounding community.

In summary, a TDR program for Cecil County would be of assistance in implementing the Comprehensive Plan  by providing another agricultural preservation tool to willing landowners.  It was the consensus of the Oversight Committee that the County must take certain actions to assure the success of the TDR program.  Prior to codification of any TDR program, the County must address the important issue of inter-jurisdictional cooperation to establish the necessary water and sewer infrastructure, adequate public facilities and development standards in the receiving areas.  The County should also undertake a TDR public education program so that when the above issues are adequately addressed, codification of the actual program would be more effective due to heightened public awareness.


Please direct any questions to the Division of Planning & Zoning by e-mailing or by calling 410-996-5220. Thank you for your continued support of agriculture in Cecil County!

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