15.15.01.21

.21 Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund and Local Funds.

A. Definitions.

(1) "Total amount to be allotted" means the amount, as certified by the Comptroller, which remains in the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund at the beginning of the fiscal year after payment of all expenses of the Foundation and the Board of Trustees during the previous fiscal year, and after subtraction of funds committed for payment as consideration for easements purchased during previous fiscal years, and after subtraction of any money remaining in the Fund as a result of a transfer of local program open space funds.

(2) "General purchases of easements" means purchases of agricultural land preservation easements in which the governing body of the county in which the land is located is not required to make a contribution to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund.

(3) "Matching purchases of easements" means purchases of agricultural land preservation easements in which the governing body of the county in which the land is located is required to make a contribution to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund of an amount equal to at least 40 percent of the value of the easement for each purchase.

(4) "Allotted purchases" means general or matching purchases made pursuant to offers to buy tendered by the Foundation on or before January 31 in the first offer cycle and on or before July 31 in the second offer cycle.

(5) "County" means any county containing productive agricultural land which is being actively farmed and which meets the criteria for land on which easements may be purchased.

(6) "Eligible county" means a county as defined in §A(5) of this regulation which has secured approval from the Foundation for a local agricultural land preservation program (applicable only to local matching programs).

B. Sources. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund shall comprise money made available to the fund by general or special fund appropriations, and money made available to the fund by grants or transfers from governmental or private sources.

C. Disbursements. The Comptroller of the Treasury may not disburse any money from the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund other than for:

(1) Costs associated with the staffing and administration of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation;

(2) Reasonable expenses incurred by the members of the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation in the performance of official duties; and

(3) Consideration in the purchase of agricultural land preservation easements beginning with fiscal year 1979 and each fiscal year thereafter. Money may be disbursed from the Fund only upon formal notification to the Comptroller of the Treasury from the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.

D. Fund Regulation, Distribution, and Procedures.

(1) Audit. The Fund shall be audited annually by the Legislative Auditor in the manner prescribed by law.

(2) Maximum Amount To Be Expended for Allotted Purchases.

(a) Beginning with fiscal year 1979, and in each fiscal year after, the Foundation shall determine the maximum amount which may be expended for allotted purchases of easements on land located within each county.

(b) The maximum amount which may be expended for allotted purchases of easements in any county in any fiscal year shall be:

(i) For general allotted purchases, an amount, which shall be divided equally between the two cycles, equal to 1/23 of 1/2 of the total amount to be allotted after first deducting the amount of local shares of agricultural transfer tax, which was unexpended and uncommitted for 3 years and is being held by the Department in a special account, plus any amount of transferred local open space fund designated by the local governing body for general purchases.

(ii) For matching allotted purchases, an amount, which shall be divided equally between the two cycles, which shall be computed for each eligible county by dividing 1/2 of the total amount to be allotted equally among those counties having an approved local matching program. The maximum amount available from the Foundation for the Foundation's share in matching allotted purchases may not exceed $1 million in any county in any fiscal year.

(c) Matching allotted purchases may not be approved for land located in any county which has not secured approval from the Foundation for a local matching program of agricultural land preservation in accord with Regulation .22 of this chapter.

(3) Money Remaining at End of Fiscal Year. Money remaining in the Fund at the end of a fiscal year may not revert to the general funds of the State, but shall remain in the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund to be used for the purposes specified in this subtitle. It is the intent that, to the extent feasible, the Foundation use the full amount of money available for the purchase of easements in any fiscal year so as to minimize the amount of money remaining in the Fund at the end of any fiscal year.

(4) Additional Offers to Buy.

(a) If during the first offer cycle, the Foundation receives acceptances of offers to buy in insufficient numbers to expend the first offer cycle allotment (that being 50 percent of the total amount to be allotted for allotted purchases), the Foundation, to the extent feasible, shall tender, after completion of the first round of the first offer cycle, additional offers to buy in sufficient numbers to expend the first offer cycle allotment. If during the second offer cycle, the Foundation receives acceptances of offers to buy in insufficient numbers to expend the remainder of the total amount to be allotted for allotted purchases, the Foundation, to the extent feasible, shall tender, after completion of the first round of the second cycle, additional offers to buy in sufficient numbers to expend the total amount to be allotted and any funds remaining from the first offer cycle allotment.

(b) Additional offers to buy shall be tendered:

(i) To landowners who have applied to sell easements on land which was otherwise acceptable, but who had not received an offer to buy solely because of limitations on the amount of money to be spent for allotted purchases.

(ii) To applicants on a Statewide basis in ascending order with respect to the proportion obtained by dividing the landowner's asking price by the State appraisal easement value for ratios of 1.0 or lower, and in descending order by point totals for ratios of greater than 1.0 as determined by Regulation .20B of this chapter. If proportions obtained are equal, the following land characteristics shall affect priority of acquisitions: highest productive capability, greatest urban pressure, and largest parcel.

(iii) Only after the expiration of the period allowed for acceptance of offers to buy under allotted general and matching purchases.

E. Local Funds.

(1) Transfer of Local Subdivision's Program Open-Space Funds. If authorized by law, a portion of a local subdivision's allocation of program open space funds is transferred to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund pursuant to the provisions of Natural Resources Article, §5-903, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Foundation may use these transferred funds only for purchases of easements on land located within the boundaries of the subdivision which requested the transfer of funds. These transferred open-space funds shall be available in addition to any funds which would otherwise be allotted under this subtitle for purchases of easements in the county which requested the transfer of funds, and, at the discretion of the local governing body, the transferred open-space funds may be used for general purchases or applied as the local contribution in matching purchases.

(2) Other Local Funds. Other local funds may be transferred to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund.