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A development easement is a property owner's legal right to develop a piece of land for non-agricultural purposes. If the development easement, or development "rights", are sold the land cannot be developed for any purpose other than what is specifically permitted by the easement restrictions.
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Agricultural Development Areas (ADA) are land areas identified by the County Agriculture Development Board where agricultural operations are likely to continue in the future and therefore be eligible for the farmland preservation program. The delineation of ADAs is a State requirement to receive funding for the farmland preservation program. In Hunterdon County, the ADA criteria and map were based on a study of agriculture in the County prepared by the Middlesex-Somerset-Mercer Regional Study Council. Key components of the study were the mapping of productive agricultural operations and the location of prime and statewide important soils. Based upon the study, the CADB adopted criteria for the designation of ADAs and mapped them along physical boundaries or property lines. A copy of the ADA map is available from the CADB office.
An agricultural district is an area of farms that have either enrolled or have applied to the farmland preservation program and are located within 1 mile of each other. The minimum size of a district is 250 acres. The purpose of the districting is to encourage the preservation of a core area, or "critical mass", of farms, rather than isolated farms throughout the County.
The Hunterdon County Agriculture Development Board (CADB) accepts applications on an annual basis pending the availability of State and County funds. The application period is typically open from January 1st of each year to the end of February.
It is a State program that requires municipal, County and State approvals, but the program is administered locally by the CADB. The initial selection of applications is made by the County and final approvals are sought from the municipality and the State.
Applications are evaluated by both the CADB and the SADC using adopted easement purchase criteria. Both County and State criteria emphasize the quality of soils, the municipality's commitment to agriculture, and the proximity of the farm to other farms enrolled in the farmland preservation program. If the farm adjoins another preserved farm, there is no minimum farm size for an application, otherwise, the minimum size is 40 acres.
Applicants will know if they have been selected by the CADB within 4 to 6 months from the date of the application. The farm is then appraised for its development easement value and final approval is granted by the municipality, County and State the following year. The entire process takes about 24 months.
The deed of easement sets forth the specific restrictions on the farm. In general, the farm must either be actively farmed or regularly mowed so that it can be farmed at any given time. Non-agricultural uses are not permitted unless approved prior to the preservation of the farms.
Yes. The land remains privately owned and can be sold to anyone after it is preserved subject to the easement restrictions. The land remains on the tax rolls and does not become open to the public at any time.
The value of the easement is the difference between the appraised "market" value of the farm and the value of the farm deed-restricted under this program. For example, if a farm is worth $8,000 per acre to a developer, and, based on comparable sales, the farm has been determined to be valued at $3,000 per acre after it is deed-restricted, the value of the development easement would be $5,000 per acre. The value is determined by the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) based upon two independent appraisal reports.
Nearly 100 PDR applications are reviewed every year by the County. There is currently funding available for approximately 20 to 30% of the applications. Applications are ranked and the top-scoring applications are selected for approval. See "How are applications evaluated?"
Applications are cost-shared by the State, County, and municipality. The State typically funds up to 70% of applications using monies from the recently passed Garden State Trust Fund. The local share is typically split by the County and the municipality equally using government bonds, dedicated taxes, and or other sources of funding.