Item Title: Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service - US Commodity Credit Corporation for an Agricultural Conservation Grant
Specific Action Requested:
That the Board of Commissioners approves entering into a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation, for a grant in the amount of up to $310,000.
In November 2000, Wake County voters passed a $15-million bond referendum for purposes of establishing the Wake County Open Space Preservation Program. In November 2004 the voters again passed a bond referendum in the amount of $26 million for the continued acquisition of open space lands. Phase I of the Open Space Plan, adopted by the Board of Commissioners in August 2001, identified the Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, Little River and Swift Creek watersheds as priority areas within Wake County for potential open space protection and acquisitions.
On March 17, 2003, the Board of Commissioners accepted the Wake County Consolidated Open Space Plan to protect the County's critical open space resources. The plan provides that the County's open space resources be identified and protected based on open space plans adopted by the municipalities in Wake County and the common objectives of other County plans (i.e., Watershed Management Plan, Growth Management Plan, Transportation Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Groundwater Study and Unified Development Ordinance). To date, the County has acquired or partnered with municipalities in the protection of more than 2,250 acres of open space lands.
For the past year, the County has been discussing with Larry D. and Danny G. Perry the possibility of acquiring an Agricultural Conservation and Greenway Easement on approximately 69 acres adjoining the proposed Little River Reservoir. The Perrys have agreed to this proposal and are prepared to sign a letter of intent for this conveyance upon completion of an appraisal to establish the value of the easement. The property consists of farm and timberland and represents a typical eastern Carolina farm currently producing a variety of crops. The farm will eventually adjoin the conservation pool buffer of the reservoir and contains over 4,500 linear feet of stream. The farm is currently operated utilizing the best available management practices including no till planting or conservation tillage and plantings of a number of warm native season grasses for wildlife. The property also adjoins the 293 acres which have been purchased for a future east regional Wake County park. The Perry Brothers farm is ideally located to provide a number of tangible water quality benefits, and augment our planned county park facility. The proposed Agricultural Conservation/Greenway easement restricts the property from any future development or use other than agriculture-related activities and prohibits subdivision of the property. In addition, a designated greenway corridor will be established for future trail construction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), acting by and through the Commodity Credit Corporation, currently administers the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. This program provides grant funds to local governments for the purchase of conservation easements to protect topsoil by limiting non-agricultural uses of land. This grant program provides partial funding for the purchase of these conservation easements. To be eligible the farmland must contain prime, unique or other productive soil, or historical or archaeological resources. An application for grant funds was submitted to NRCS for this project. A grant in the amount of up to $310,000 has been offered to Wake County for the purchase of an Agricultural Conservation Easement on the 69 acres owned by Larry and Danny Perry. An appraisal is currently being prepared as a part of the grant application to establish the value of the Agricultural Conservation Easement. The County will be responsible for 50% of the acquisition cost which is to be based upon the appraised value.
Due to the fact that completion of the appraisal, survey and due diligence activities and finalizing the terms and conditions of the easement will take approximately 2-3 months, the USDA has requested that the Board proceed with approving the Cooperative Agreement at this time in order to secure the available funding. Upon completion of the above activities, the details of the easement purchase and final grant amount will be presented to the Board for approval. This proposed acquisition has been reviewed by the Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee and was recommended for approval.