Ag co–op has until September
By Matthew Burgoyne
With a September 1 deadline set by the Board of Commissioners, the citizens of Morgan County are working to create an agricultural cooperative.
Allison Moon, senior planner for Morgan County, brought the idea of a cooperative to the Board of Commissioners. The commissioners told Moon she can continue to help the citizens form and organize this cooperative as long as progress is made by September 1.
As part of the bi-weekly meetings, the Agricultural Land Use and Zoning Discussion Group came up with the idea of an agricultural cooperative. On May 15, the group decided to continue meeting through the month of June.
“I was excited to see that the group wanted to keep meeting,” Moon said. “It allows me to show the citizens how the world works from my side of the desk and it also allows me to see how the world works on the other side.”
The group briefly discussed the cooperative, because this meeting was focused on land use and zoning concerns. Everyone agreed that the cooperative needed organization and needed to move forward, and the group will continue to work on this project.
Moon provided the group with a few options for the future of land in Morgan County. The purpose of these discussion groups was to give Moon an idea of what the citizens wanted to see in the county in terms of land use. As part of her job, Moon is charged with the task of updating the Comprehensive Plan five years after its adoption. 2009 will be the fifth year. This group meetings have given Moon the knowledge she needs to complete her work.
The group’s main concern was making sure that Morgan County maintained its rural character. One program the group thought about was estate planning. This would entail a land owner to work with the planners of Morgan County to devise a plan of how their land would be used once they were gone. If no one in their family could take the land, estate planning would provide an outline of how the land will be used. This method would help to ensure that the land would be used in a way that would maintain the rural character Morgan County prides itself on.
Moon also reintroduced the concept of transferrable development rights or TDRs. Though she is not a supporter of the idea, Moon told those in attendance that if this is something they wanted to do, then they had to talk to the city councils, because it would impact their planning. A TDR would take density away from rural areas and transfer it to the city, which is why approval by the city councils would be necessary. Moon suggested other alternatives to such a program.
One such alternative was conservation easements. If a property owner wanted to re-zone their land to have a higher density, they could donate a conservation easement to Morgan County to help their case. An easement would allow the county to protect land from development as a donation from a property owner wishing to re-zone. Transactions like this have happened in the past. Some property owners have donated fire trucks or money to the school board. Moon’s suggestion would make the property owners happy by allowing for more density and make the citizens of Morgan County happen by highlighting the county’s character.
Though May 15 was the last meeting, the group decided to extend its discussion through the month of June. The land use meetings will be separate from the agricultural cooperative meetings to better utilize the time for the planners and the citizens. On June 5 and June 19, the group will meet to discuss land use and zoning issues. On June 12, the group will meet to talk about the agricultural cooperative.