Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of Charles County 1-26-1988 by Ord. No. 88-7.[1] Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Land records — See Ch. 77.
Zoning — See Ch. 145.
Planning Commission — See Ch. 200.
Flood damage control — See Ch. 238.
Subdivision regulations — See Ch. 278.
Zoning regulations — See Ch. 297.
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance repealed Ord. No. 80-43, adopted 6-11-1980, which appeared as former Ch. 215.

§ 215-1 Applicability.

This chapter shall apply to all existing agricultural land preservation districts and any district created under this chapter.

§ 215-2 Establishment; protected normal agricultural activities; proposed subdivisions.

A. 
In accord with statutory provisions referenced above, agricultural preservation districts may be established in Charles County. Such districts shall provide for the protection of normal agricultural activities in the districts through the following provisions:
(1) 
Any farm use of land is permitted. This includes but is not limited to the following types of enterprises: tobacco, grain, oil crops, hay, vegetables, horticulture, floriculture, turf, specialty crops, garden plots, forestry, tree farming, biomass production, livestock, poultry, dairy, apiary, wildlife or game preserve, fish, game or poultry hatchery and aquaculture.
(2) 
Operation, at any time, of machinery used in farm production or the processing of agricultural products is permitted. This includes but is not limited to the following types of implements and equipment: land tillage; land clearing; land leveling; crop harvesting; timber harvesting; sawmill; application of fertilizer, minerals, soil amendments, pesticides; irrigation; crop cleaning, drying, storage and aeration equipment; blending, processing and storage of feed and fertilizer for on-farm use; and devices to produce energy from solar, wind, biomass and farm waste and residue from crops and animals.
(3) 
Agricultural activities and operations in accordance with good husbandry practices are permitted and preferred activities, including activities which may produce normal agriculturally related noise and odors.
(4) 
The sale of farm products, produced on the farm where the sales are made, is permitted. Farm produce stands and pick-your-own fruit and vegetable operations are permitted with the proper permits.
(5) 
Buildings and structures needed for production, processing and storage of crops and livestock and for the housing and maintenance of equipment and implements are permitted.
B. 
Prior to the approval of a preliminary subdivision plat of six or more lots, the subdivider shall notify the owner of all adjoining agricultural preservation districts of the fact of the proposed subdivision. The Planning Commission will review subdivision plans which adjoin agricultural preservation districts, taking into consideration evidence produced by the owner of the adjoining agricultural preservation district, and determine whether mitigation is required.

§ 215-3 Maintenance, revision and publication of Official Maps.

Official Maps of agricultural preservation districts shall be maintained at the office of the Charles County Department of Planning and Zoning and shall be revised from time to time to reflect the establishment, alteration and abolition of agricultural preservation district boundaries. The Official Maps shall be made current at least once a year by June 30 of each year and shall be published at the same scale as the Department of Assessment and Taxation Property Maps.

§ 215-4 Legislative guidelines and eligibility criteria for establishment of districts; maintenance of records.

[Amended 11-18-2014 by Bill No. 2014-08]
A. 
Agricultural preservation districts shall be established in accordance with the terms of this chapter, the current provisions of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Agriculture Article, §§ 2-501 through 2-515, and existing regulations adopted pursuant thereto by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, or the follow terms and criteria as of November 18, 2014:
(1) 
The minimum acreage requirement for an agricultural preservation district is 50 contiguous acres, unless the parcel is contiguous with land already protected by conservation easement, restrictive land preservation covenants or fee simple ownership by a conservation organization comprising a total preservation area of at least 50 contiguous acres.
(2) 
Using the USDA Soil Survey of Charles County, at least 50% of the land shall be in capability Classes I, II, III and IV.
(3) 
If the natural soil condition has been altered or topsoil has been removed, an on-site evaluation adhering to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) approved methods and mapping procedures must be performed by a qualified soil scientist to demonstrate that at least 50% of the land remains as productive as soil capability Classes I, II, III, and IV. The on-site evaluation must be approved by the Charles Soil Conservation District.
(4) 
A landowner may withhold acreage from the agricultural preservation district so long as the amount of land withheld does not exceed 10% of the total acreage of the existing parcels subject to the district application. Withheld acreage shall be located so as to have minimal impact to the farm and forest operations of the agricultural land preservation district.
(5) 
The owner of the property must have and maintain an agricultural use assessment as determined by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT).
(6) 
The establishment of the district shall not take effect until all landowners of the proposed district have executed a district agreement, stipulating that the landowners agree to the provisions of this chapter and to keep the land in agricultural or forestry use for a minimum period of five years, and the agreement is recorded among the land records of Charles County.
(7) 
In the event of severe economic hardship, or other change in circumstance that would warrant consideration of release, the County Commissioners, with recommendation from the Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board, may release the landowner's property from the district agreement. Nothing in this section shall preclude the landowner from selling the property.
B. 
With at least 30 days' notice, owners of parcels of land enrolled in agricultural land preservation districts from which no development rights have been conveyed may request to terminate their district agreement after five or more years from the date the district agreement was executed. Written notice of such intent shall be addressed to the County Commissioners of Charles County.
C. 
All records concerning the establishment of agricultural preservation districts shall be maintained in the office of the Charles County Department of Planning and Zoning.

§ 215-5 Property tax credit.

[Added 2-7-1989 by Ord. No. 89-17; amended 4-11-1989 by Ord. No. 89-36]
A. 
The owner of all agricultural land, including farm improvements, which is located in an agricultural preservation district established pursuant to this chapter shall be entitled to a property tax credit against the County tax for all agricultural land, including farm improvements, which is located in an agricultural preservation district established pursuant to this chapter.
B. 
The property tax credit shall not be applicable to any residential structures located within an agricultural preservation district.
C. 
In order to be eligible for the property tax credit, the agricultural preservation district must be approved by the Maryland Agricultural Preservation Foundation on or before April 1 for the ensuing fiscal year for which application is made for the property tax credit.
D. 
The property tax credit shall be applicable for each year during which the agricultural land is located in an agricultural preservation district.
E. 
At such time as the agricultural preservation district is terminated or ceases to be in effect, the owner of the agricultural land shall pay to Charles County an amount of money equal to the total of the property tax credits granted in the preceding four years. The County shall have a lien on the agricultural land to the extent of the amount of the property tax credits granted in the preceding four years. The owner of the agricultural land shall pay the amount of money as above determined within 30 days of receiving a demand therefor. Thereafter, the amount of money shall bear interest at the rate of 10% per annum. The agricultural land shall not be transferred on the assessment records of Charles County until such time as the amount of money as above determined is paid to Charles County.
F. 
The property tax credit shall be administered by the Director of Fiscal Services who is hereby authorized to adopt rules and regulations deemed necessary to provide for the orderly and systematic implementation of the property tax credit. The Director may require that an application be filed for the property tax credit. The Director is authorized to approve refunds of County property tax which is paid by the owner prior to the approval of a property tax credit authorized by this section.

§ 215-6 Conservation plan required.

Prior to the establishment of an agricultural preservation district, the owner of the property desired to be established as an agricultural preservation district shall secure a soil conservation and water quality plan, prepared in cooperation with the Charles Soil Conservation District. The conservation plan shall be incorporated into the agreement establishing an agricultural preservation district. The conservation plan shall emphasize control of erosion, sediment and animal waste, shall reflect the latest technology and approved conservation practices and shall be updated on a periodic basis.

§ 215-7 Sale and purchase of easements.

The sale and purchase of agricultural land preservation easements shall be in accordance with the terms of the current provisions of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Agriculture Article, §§ 2-501 through 2-515, and the existing regulations adopted pursuant thereto by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.

§ 215-8 Subdivision of residential lots from agricultural land preservation districts.

[Amended 11-18-2014 by Bill No. 2014-08]
The subdivision of residential lots from an agricultural land preservation district shall be limited to the following criteria:
A. 
The total number of residential lots shall not exceed the following densities:
(1) 
One lot if the size of the agricultural land preservation district is 20 acres or more but fewer than 70 acres;
(2) 
Two lots if the size of the agricultural land preservation district is 70 acres or more but fewer than 120 acres;
(3) 
Three lots if the size of the agricultural land preservation district is 120 acres or more.
B. 
The subdivision of preexisting dwellings counts against the density allowances in § 215-10A.

§ 215-9 Subdivision of agricultural land preservation districts for agricultural purposes (agricultural subdivision).

[Added 11-18-2014 by Bill No. 2014-08[1]]
The subdivision of an agricultural land preservation district for agricultural purposes shall be in accordance with the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation's regulations for agricultural subdivision, with approval by the Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board.
[1]
Editor's Note: This bill also renumbered former § 215-9 as § 215-11 and amended same.

§ 215-10 Sale and purchase of transferrable development rights by County Commissioners.

[Added 11-18-2014 by Bill No. 2014-08]
A. 
Subject to the availability of funds, the County Commissioners may purchase and retire transferrable development rights (TDRS) from agricultural land preservation districts. These retired TDRS shall be terminated and extinguished and shall not be used or transferred to any portion of the property from which they came, or to any other property, or used for the purpose of calculating permissible lot yield of the property from which they came or any other property. The County Commissioners shall determine and announce, on an annual basis, the application schedule and the amount of funding available for the purchase and retirement of TDRS (PAR Fund).
B. 
The Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board shall recommend, for approval by the County Commissioners, the price to be offered for the annual purchase and retirement of TDRS by the PAR Fund. The Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board shall consider the value of TDR sales and transfers during the prior year in recommending the offering price.
C. 
The Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board shall review and prioritize applications according to the Charles County easement sale prioritization system for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation as approved by the County Commissioners, and those applications receiving the highest ranking shall receive priority for PAR Fund purchases.
D. 
The County Commissioners shall accept applications for the sale of a maximum of 20 TDRS per year from the owner of a recorded agricultural preservation district.
E. 
No individual, group of individuals, partnership, corporation or other legal entity shall have any vested interest in the sale of more than 20 TDRS through the PAR Fund per calendar year. This provision shall not limit the number of applications that may be made by any such entity.
F. 
The Agricultural Land Preservation District from which TDRS are purchased by the County Commissioners through the PAR Fund shall be encumbered by restrictive covenants that restrict the use of the land in accordance with this chapter and the agricultural land preservation district agreement. Once at least 50% of the TDRS have been retired, these covenants shall be perpetual and as such shall be inheritable and assignable and run with the land as an incorporeal interest and are enforceable by the County Commissioners against the owner of the agricultural land preservation district and their respective personal representatives, heirs, successors and assigns.

§ 215-11 Applicability of other laws.

[Amended 11-18-2014 by Bill No. 2014-08]
The establishment of agricultural preservation districts and the sale of agricultural preservation easements shall be subject to the terms of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance and the Charles County Subdivision Regulations[1] and all other laws and regulations of Charles County, Maryland, except as otherwise provided in §§ 215-1 through 215-10 of this chapter.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 297, Zoning Regulations, and Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations, respectively.