More than 760 acres in North Fayette are being considered for a state-sanctioned program to encourage the continuation of productive working farms.
The township is considering a request to form what would become the sixth Agricultural Security Area in Allegheny County. The supervisors June 11 accepted an application from landowners interested in forming the security area and created an advisory committee to review the request.
"It helps to preserve farmland and protect the property owners from potential development," Laura Ludwig, development director, said of the voluntary program.
Participants receive certain protections against eminent domain, farm condemnation and nuisance complaints related to farming activities, and they become eligible for county farmland preservation programs, according to the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Farmland Preservation, which administers the program at the state level.
Landowners within the area could benefit from various state programs and be eligible to apply for agricultural conservation easements, Ms. Ludwig said. Such easements ensure the preservation of farmland and prevent future development.
The program does not restrict the use of the property by the owner. The Allegheny County Farmland Preservation Program website says that farmers within a security area may sell, subdivide or develop their property.
The proposed security area in North Fayette covers 763 acres on 13 lots scattered throughout the township owned by the Antel, Scott, Lutz, Senovich and Kehm families.
The dairy farm, apple orchard and other farmlands are on Route 22 and on Stewart, Oakdale, Lutz, Kelso, North Branch and Gamble roads.
Ms. Ludwig said the agricultural area likely will be finalized in August.
The application process will include public comment and a review by the advisory committee, composed of supervisor Bob Doddato, resident Peter Scully and farmers Jerry Antel, Fred Lutz and John Scott.
After the area is established, additional agricultural properties of at least 10 acres can join, Ms. Ludwig said.
Once farmers join a security area, they must remain for at least seven years.
Other security areas in Allegheny County have been formed in neighboring South Fayette and in West Deer, Forward, Frazer and the North Hills Council of Governments, which includes Franklin Park, Hampton, Indiana, Marshall, McCandless, Ohio Township, Pine and Richland.
The state enacted the law establishing the Agricultural Security Area in 1981.
The program is described as "a tool for strengthening and protecting our quality farmland from the urbanization of rural areas," on the Bureau of Farmland Preservation website.
Ms. Ludwig said preserving farmland is important as North Fayette welcomes new homes and businesses.
"We're going to continue to grow, but we certainly believe there are other areas to protect or save," she said.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.