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Another township joins agricultural area

Published November 26. 2013 05:00PM

The number of townships in Schuylkill County which have enrolled their land in Agricultural Security Areas now stands at 14. Two more farms in Washington Township have enrolled, according to a report at the monthly meeting of the Schuylkill County Planning Commission.

The Agricultural Security Law prevents municipalities from enacting ordinances that restrict normal farming practices or structures in these areas. It also requires state agencies with programs that might negatively affect farmers to conduct their programs in a manner that will encourage the continuance of viable agriculture in the areas.

It requires the approval of the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board of the Commonwealth before the Commonwealth or local governments use the power of eminent domain to acquire land in an area. Finally, the law requires that state or locally funded development projects in a Security Area be reviewed by the state Agricultural Preservation Board and the Schuylkill County Agricultural Land Preservation Board. Inclusion in the area is voluntary and does not prevent the landowner from development of his land.

The 14 townships in Schuylkill County that have established Agricultural Security Areas consisting of 56,900 acres and cover farmland in the northwest, northeast, south, and southeast. The area in the northwest and northeast, in particular, make up a large portion of the suitable agricultural soils.

At its meeting the planning board reviewed the proposal from Washington Township and reported it was consistent with the Schuylkill County Comprehensive plan. Executive Board Director Sue Smith said the county's comprehensive plan encourages Agricultural Security Area within areas planned for agriculture. In Washington Township 141.3 acres were added to the Agricultural Security Area.

Smith also pointed out Schuylkill County is participating fully in the Pennsylvania Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements Program which also provide protection of farmland that is essentially permanent. In order to be eligible for the PACE program, farmland must be located in an Agricultural Security area. Currently 70 farms are in the PACE program totaling 8,500 acres.

The board granted Eagle Rock Resorts Company a conditional approval for creating 51 single family residential lots in its AW-South Subdivision, Eagle Rock Resort's in North Union Township. They have until the February 2014 meeting to complete the plan as more details were requested on the grading plan pertaining to steep slopes.

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