I am appearing today to voice my opinion, favoring approval of those AFDs up for renewal. AFDs are essential to insure open space for Northampton County and are necessary in maintaining our county’s rural character. AFDs provide recharge areas for our fragile aquifer system, habitat for wildlife, clean air ( vegetation cleans the air), recreational opportunities for our citizens, beautiful scenic expanses and vistas for residents and tourists alike,and perhaps most importantly, the ability of landowners to offer reasonable land leases to farmers.
I do however, request that the Board of Supervisors review and update the criteria with which AFDs are approved, and maintained in order to receive the substantial tax breaks their owners are afforded. I also urge the county to renew the designations for 5 instead of the current 10 years , to allow for better oversight.
Editor’s Note: This letter was read into the record at the last County Board of Supervisors meeting.
It is my understanding, that properties are rated using a point system. Only those properties deemed with enough points,and meeting other criteria outlined in the Northampton County AFDs program guidelines, are selected by the committee appointed by the BoS. I believe, that the privilege of receiving reduced tax rates, should be extended to a winder range of applicants, including small property holders near the core properties of AFD districts, perhaps including parcels with as little as 10 acres, with greater emphasis on ecologically sensitive properties. Recipients should have to “earn” their tax breaks by actually improving lands used for agriculture and silviculture. Such measures would include maintaining the integrity of ditches, taking more extensive measures to control erosion by wind and water( such as planting wind screens with native plants),implementing agricultural practices that will actually improve soil and water quality in the Bay and its tributaries, curtailing the overuse of herbicides and pesticides,encouraging organic and sustainable farming practices , and enhancing wildlife habitats, through suitable vegetative plantings and preservation of key plants such a milkweeds and other rare or endangered plant and animal species.
To whom much is given, much should be required in return.