Q. I Donít Own A Farm, And I Can Ride On Parkland, So How Does Ag Preservation Directly Benefit Me?
A. Without Farms, You Will Pay Higher Homeowner Taxes
You don't have to be a farmer or be wealthy to appreciate the need for ag land preservation.
Because one answer (there are so many) to the title question is that, without agriculture (and, without commercial zones), every one's pocket book will be affected.
In fact, if you are in the middle to upper middle class tax brackets, this answer is even more important to you, because without good land planning that includes both agriculture and commercial zones in addition to residential zones, you will end up paying more in taxes.
The reasons we need to preserve agriculture lands go beyond a pure sentimentality for "the simple life," or mere romantic yearning for a bucolic environment.
Yes, we as horse people want and desire (but we don't "need") access to open lands. However, our wants and desires are not going to impress the politicians or urban planners. Face it, urban planners are responsible for creating our counties' master plans--and they are not "urban-rural" planners, they are "urban" planners.
The majority of horse people do not own large spreads to help protect rural land. In Maryland, the majority of horse people--you, our Equiery readers, either own a "farmette" (which may very well be landlocked) or you board your horses at someone else's farm. So, you, the average horse owner, are not going to be able to directly preserve open farmland. But you can play a role in making sure your county's master plan contains good "urban-rural interface" (the current buzz word in planning circles).
To make a difference, you need to be able to talk turkey with your politicians and county planning commissioners. And frankly, they don't really care about your horsey wants and desires, or your romantic bucolic visions. All they care about is if the bottom line is in red ink or black ink, and the one thing they hear repeatedly from the developers is that development will mean more tax dollars for the county coffers.
And they are right. More development will mean more tax dollars for the county.
But what the developers won't talk about is how many more dollars these new residential areas will consume in services than they will contribute in tax dollars.
What do we mean by services? Schools. Police. Fire & Rescue. Snow removal. Trash & Recycling Services. Road improvements. Stop lights. In some cases, services also means sewer and water--you know, infrastructure.
This is what you need to know: for every $1 paid in taxes, the average residential zone requires more than $1 in services, any where from $1.05--a $1.35 in services, depending upon county surveyed.*
How can that be? Wouldn't governments go bankrupt?
Because farms, commercial businesses and industry make up the shortfall.
For every $1 paid in taxes, the average rural zone uses .48cnt in services.
For every $1 paid in taxes, the commercial zone requires .39cnt in services.
As horse people, we all want to see open land preserved. This is a given. But, unfortunately, this is not a very strong argument when trying to influence your local zoning process. In fact, "preserving open land for horses," to the general public and elected officials, sounds rather self-serving and elitist, particularly when they have the promise of a pot of gold from developers.
So, although preserving open land in order to have a place to ride our horses may be our personal and emotional motivation as horse people to support ag preservation policies, we need to have sound arguments for why ag preservation makes good fiscal policy in order to convince our representatives.
Got it: sound zoning plans contain a reasonable mix of agriculture and commercial, not just residential. So, now what can I do?