Clallam looks to continue farmland preservation

By Olympic Peninsula

News Group

The Clallam County Commissioners recently voted to approve a $400,000 grant to the North Olympic Land Trust from the Clallam County Conservation Futures Fund, to preserve the 54.6-acre Mid Valley Farm across from SunLand in Sequim.

The project requires North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT) to acquire a grant deed of conservation for the property. The county must approve the conservation easement prior to its purchase.

The deed “shall preserve the subject property for agricultural use, forest management, and/or habitat protections,” according to the staff memo. The grant will be administered by the county’s community development department on behalf of NOLT.

The land trust will buy a portion of the value of the land from the landowners, and that will legally ensure that the land will be preserved as farmland into perpetuity.

The law requires NOLT to ensure the property’s long-term conservation and obtain the county’s consent prior to conveyance of any interest. The reimbursement period for acquisition expenses begins on May 11, 2022, and will end on Nov. 11, 2023.

NOLT will be reimbursed monthly for any money it already has spent on the project.

In December 2019, county commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a property tax intended to preserve farmland. Commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson voted in favor of the tax and former commissioner Bill Peach voted against it.

The ordinance set a levy at $0.0275 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which was expected to raise about $250,000 a year. It equals an additional $6.88 per year for a home valued at $250,000.

When a landowner receives a payment from the Conservation Futures program, that property owner still owns the land and is still required to pay property tax. The only restriction is that the land must continue to be farmed.

The state law was first passed in 1971 and last updated in 2005. The levy limit is 6.25 cents per $1,000.

Since its founding in 1990, NOLT has worked with landowners and the community to conserve more than 3,300 acres across the North Olympic Peninsula for farms, fish and forests.

In Clallam County, the average farm size is 44 acres, according to NOLT. However, in the past 70 years, more than 75 percent of Clallam’s farmland has been converted to other uses.