THE GREAT BUCKEYE CLEAN UP:
FROM PAGE 13
environmental justice/social justice issues where communities feel that they’ve become the only place where you can build a factory or manufacturing facility,” Gebhardt says. “(Clean Ohio) has come in and cleaned up some of those sites and the community and improved the health and safety of those areas.”
While contaminated land isn’t limited to urban communities, rural areas are more likely to take advantage of the Agricultural Easement Purchase Program ($25 million).
“As a landowner, you have a bundle of rights for that property,” Gebhardt says. “You have the right to drill for oil, mine for coal, cut timber, build on it. Each of those rights has a value. (You) can sell (your) right to develop that land. In exchange there is an easement, which serves as a deed restriction, that prevents that land form being developed in perpetuity.”
The amount paid to a farmer is “usually” the difference between the appraised market value of that land for development and the value of that land for agricultural use, there are other ways to determine the value to be paid for that easement.
Legally it’s possible to have the easement removed or “extinguished,” but there’s no precedent for the process because nobody in the U.S. has tried to do that yet, according to Gebhardt. In theory, the person wanting to lift the restriction would have to reimburse the state of Ohio to make that happen.
Acknowledging that farms can contribute harmful contaminants to the environment through the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers or poor erosion controls, Gebhardt says the benefit of retaining undeveloped land shouldn’t be dismissed.
“Society has said in a lot of cases, ‘We’d rather have that farm than a housing development or another Wal-Mart or something along that line.’ I think for the most part people like having the farms around,” he says. “The farms that we’re primarily involved with in this program are family farms, very properly managed. In Ohio, if you do put an agricultural easement on the farm, there has to be a farm management plan that does talk about how that land is being farmed.”
The Green Space Conservation Program ($150 million) and the Trails Fund ($25 million) round out the full $400 million that Issue 2 would raise if approved by voters.
To date, 26,000 acres of natural areas, 20,000 acres of prime farmland and 216 miles of recreational trails have been protected, according to the Continue Clean Ohio Web site (www.cleanohio.org).
Hamilton County has received $31.5 million, with only Cuyahoga and Franklin counties receiving more money.
Learn more about CLEAN OHIO at ohiodnr.com/default/ tabid/10771/Default.aspx. Look for additional CityBeat coverage of candidates and ballot issues in every issue through Election Day, Nov. 4.