The New Castle County Executive says taxpayers will save $2.5 million allocated under his predecessor to preserve farmland in collaboration with the state.
Under the agreement with the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Program, the county has committed to spend $500,000 to buy development rights for properties, said County Executive Matt Meyer, who took office in January.
Under a deal struck by the administration of Meyer’s predecessor Tom Gordon, County Council authorized spending $3 million to purchase developments for about 235 acres owned by two politically connected farmers in the Port Penn area. Those landowners are former state Farm Bureau President Gary Warren and Jaymes Lester, a former member of the state Public Service Commission.
Meyer decided to terminate the controversial deal to preserve the Warren and Lester farms, spokesman Jason Miller said Friday.
Meyer said, however, that $500,000 of the $3 million can now be used to preserve farmland, which has diminished dramatically in recent years as housing and commercial developments replaced crops on thousands of acres in the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area of southern New Castle County.
“The county will retain the right to select the properties where development rights are purchased,” Meyer said. “We believe that this commitment of $500,000 will preserve significant acres of New Castle County farmland at greatly reduced cost,” Meyer said.
Since the county doesn’t have a farmland preservation program, collaborating with the state’s two-decades-old initiative “Is the right approach to a more comprehensive land preservation program that maximizes its impact and value to taxpayers,” Meyer said.
The state program, which employs a well-established, transparent process to identify and appraise eligible properties, has saved more than 120,000 acres statewide.