The effort put forth by the Township to preserve Farmland was highlighted in the spring 2018 Newsletter. See the full newsletter article below!
FARMLAND PRESERVATION NEWSLETTER ARTICLE:
OPEN LAND PRESERVATION: A Natural Priority for Upper Macungie
High on the list of Upper Macungie Township’s quality-of-life assets is our wealth of open green spaces — rolling farmlands, woodlands, wetlands and recreational fields. With increased population and pressure for development, your UMT Supervisors have made the preservation of open spaces a leading priority for many years. Far more than an aspirational intent, this focus on preserving large expanses of open land is supported by legal ordinance, as well as an ethical obligation to current and future generations of Upper Macungie residents.
Balancing Progress with Preservation Back in 2003, your Township leaders enacted the Conservation by Design Ordinance, an enforceable mandate requiring future development to be balanced with considerations for open space and environmental stability. This ordinance was enacted to:
- Preserve forested areas and farmland
- Avoid severe soil erosion and sedimentation
- Encourage development in areas that are more physically suited to the purpose
- Avoid construction on steep slopes
- Preserve significant land areas as conservation areas
- Provide additional active and passive recreation areas and access to open space
Since its enactment, UMT has been able to preserve approximately 323 acres of land (156 acres of farm land and 167 acres of open space), and this legacy is growing. The proposed Lehigh Hills Development will add an additional 105 acres, bringing the total to 428 acres of open space made possible by UMT’s Conservation by Design Ordinance. These expanses are Township-owned and are scheduled to be placed in protective Agricultural Conservation Easements.
Additional Tools Used to Preserve Land
Along with the Conservation by Design Ordinance, UMT leadership is utilizing the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program, Agriculture Security Areas, and the Open Space Preservation Fund as methods to preserve farmland.
The Agricultural Conservation Easements Program, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands. In our case, the USDA teamed with Township government to protect working farmlands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land.
Currently, Upper Macungie Township has 12 farms with a total of 932 acres permanently preserved in Agricultural Conservation Easements. We are on track to preserve 1,089 acres of farmland through this program by 2021. According to the USDA website, this federal initiative has resulted in improved soil health, water and air quality and wildlife habitat.
Agriculture Security Areas (ASAs) are farms entitled to special protection from condemnation, laws and ordinances that would unreasonably restrict farming operations. Local governments in Pennsylvania may establish ASAs but only in response to petitions from landowners interested in enrolling their land in an ASA. UMT has many acres preserved in ASA, which are color- coded in the map below. This acreage number is always changing.
Additionally, in 2017 UMT created the Open Space Preservation Fund to purchase farmland and/or to subsidize land owners who wish to permanently preserve their agricultural lands. This Fund was started using funds received through a right-of-way easement purchased by PPL, and no UMT tax dollars were spent. It currently has a balance of $404,444 and every dollar will be dedicated to sustaining the farming legacy and lands that have been so much a part of our community heritage here in Upper Macungie Township.
Comparison of Preserved Farmland by Municipality
Yes, Upper Macungie Township is a very desirable place for families and commerce to thrive. And, yes, we are home to modern interstate transportation infrastructure, a Fortune 500 corporation (Air Products) and countless additional employers and businesses of all sizes and structures. But because of our determination to preserve open spaces through programs like the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, your Township compares quite favorably with our neighboring municipalities.
Of the contiguous municipalities in UMT’s population range, our community compares well in acres preserved through the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, according to the following statistics from the Lehigh County Agricultural Land Preservation Department. (See chart below.)
Using these 4 preservation tools, Upper Macungie Township is on track to accomplish its mission of preserving as much open space as possible.
Protected Farmland Map- Click to enlarge.