NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Private Groups Buy Development Rights To "Save The Land"

July 1, 1998

Some activists who wish to preserve farmlands and open spaces are promoting private and government programs to buy what are called "development rights" from land owners. In the case of farmers, this entails paying them the difference between what their land would be worth if sold to a developer and what it is worth if used in perpetuity for agriculture.

  • For instance, if land is worth $5,000 an acre if unencumbered but only $3,000 if limited to farming, a group will pay the farmer $2,000 an acre to continue farming.
  • Unless a court intervenes, the deed to the farm is restricted with a provision that forever prohibits residential or commercial development.
  • Those familiar with such arrangements say they have existed in 20 states for many years.

Supporters of private groups like Scenic Hudson say they are at least an alternative to having states or localities spend taxpayers' money to buy up tracts for preservation purposes. New Jersey, for example, has spent $168 million since 1973 to buy up 234 farms, and Connecticut has shelled out $75 million on 169 farms.

Source: Joseph Berger, "How to Keep 'em Down on the Farm," New York Times, July 1, 1998.

 

Browse more articles on Environment Issues