January 25, 2003 | Local landowner going through easement processReprinted from: Breithhaupt, George. 2003. Local landowner going through easement process. Mount Vernon News, 25 January.
GAMBlER - Tim and Heidi Norris, who have a 50-acre farm just outside of Gambier, are two of several local landowners going through the application process for obtaining an agricultural easement.
Tim Norris heard about the program while visiting the Ohio Department of Agriculture about a year ago. The goals of the program interested him and he attended a meeting at the Memorial Building several month later that explained the provisions of the program and the application process. He found out the Philander Chase Corp. had agreed to act as the applicant for local landowners. Individual property owners cannot make the application themselves; only a government agency or nonprofit land trust can do that. The Philander Chase Corp. qualified as a land trust and could make the applications for local landowners.
Norris' reasons for deciding to apply for the AEPP were simple.
After reviewing the application process I knew my farm would score high due to its location," he explained. "We were the optimal distance from water and sewer (lines), we were next to an Ohio Scenic River and the number of non-ag houses was in the desired range. So I thought it would not hurt to apply since it does not cost anything."
Norris also believes it is a very beneficial and needed program to assure the quality of life in the county. "Since 1950 to 1997, Ohio has lost one-third of its agricultural land," he explained. "If we continue to develop land in the same haphazard way that we have in the past, Ohio will lose its No. 1 industry. This program brings this problem to the front of everybody's mind, as well as saving several thousand acres from development. "I also feel it is an important and viable program which allows people to realize some value from their farm without having to sell lots off and changing the landscape forever," he added.
So, with the aid of the Philander Chase Corp., Norris began the application process.
The application itself asks a number of factual questions about the property. Details such as distance from water and sewer lines, proximity to a major highway intersection and the number of non-farmhouses within a certain distance of the property are requested.
"We also had to have a soil survey done by the Knox County Soil and Water Office," Norris said. "Another pert of the application is a set of essay or survey questions as to why your farm should be chosen.
"Once the application is complete you have to have it verified by the county engineer. You also have to have a resolution passed by your county and township governments to allow you to sell your ag easement to the state."
If the property scores high enough to be accepted into the program on the stated criteria, the state pays for an appraisal of the land, which will set the value of the agricultural easement. The state pays 75 percent of the value and either the applicant or owner of the land pays the remaining 25 percent. When the process is complete the land will be protected for farmland use virtually forever.
The process is still ongoing for Norris but he feels confident his land will be accepted.
A look at the assistance of the Philander Chase Corp. and other agencies assisting landowners in this process and updates on the status of applicants will be the subject of an upcoming article in the News.