Montgomery County, Maryland, Farmland Preservation Program

Montgomery County, Maryland, Farmland Preservation Program

(Credit: choosemontgomerymd.com)

(Credit: choosemontgomerymd.com)

Principle: Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas

In a nutshell: Even though it adjoins Washington, DC, and is home to one million people, Montgomery County, Maryland, runs one of the most successful farmland preservation programs in the country.  Using a variety of state and local programs, Montgomery County has preserved approximately 74,000 acres of its 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.  This extensive area of preserved farmland allows agricultural businesses and support services to thrive.  The 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture reported that the market value of agricultural products sold in the county totaled more than $48.3 million.

Over 52,000 acres have been preserved through Montgomery’s Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.

The adoption of the Functional Master Plan for the Preservation of Agriculture and Rural Open Space in October 1980, which created the Agricultural Reserve, also led to a downzoning of rural land from a density of one unit per five acres to one unit per 25 acres.  Landowners could transfer their development rights, however, at the former density of 1:5.  Thanks to high demand in the TDR receiving zones, land owners in the Agricultural Reserve sold the development rights that they could not build on site, thereby realizing much of the equity of their land without having to sell it.

After selling their TDRs, landowners retain the right to subdivide lots at the lower density.  However, to discourage this development, Montgomery County created the Building Lot Termination (BLT) program in 2008.  Both the public and private sector can purchase BLTs. Under the latter option, a developer may purchase BLTs from an owner of agriculturally-zoned property in the Agricultural Reserve and transfer them to achieve greater density for commercial and residential development in Transit Mixed Use, Commercial-Residential, and Life Science zones.

Why we like it: Montgomery County’s land preservation program benefitted from over $115 million in private funds – through TDRs and BLTs – to preserve its rural landscape and the resource-based businesses that depend upon it.  The land preservation effort complements the county’s effort to focus development into interesting, thriving urban areas both new and revitalized.

For more information:

https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/agservices/

Montgomery County Agricultural Preservation Map

moco-ag-preservation-map