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More farmland to be protected in Preston County

KINGWOOD — Two Preston County farms are one step closer to being protected by an easement and remaining as agricultural land forever.

Program director of the county’s Farmland Protection Board LaDeana Teets asked commissioners to allow the board to move forward with the easement process on the farms at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

The first is the Hansel and Mildred Teets farm on Aurora Pike. Teets said their heirs wanted to protect it to honor them. The second farm is owned by Bill Stone and is the former Paul Peaslee Farm, off of Dinkenburger Road in Kingwood.

“We think that is good recognition there, too, because Paul was quite a leader in the farming community,” Teets said. 

The Kingwood farm is 230 acres and the Aurora one is 120 acres. In total, there are eight farms with 1,108 acres. Once these two, and a third the board is working on, are complete, there will be about 1,600 protected aces.

Commissioner Dave Price made the motion to move forward with protecting each farm. Commissioners Don Smith, Price and Commission President Samantha Stone all voted in favor of the Teets farm. Stone abstained from voting on the Kingwood farm because Bill Stone is her husband’s cousin. Smith and Price voted to move forward on it.

The easement process includes surveys, looking into the history of the farm for oil spills or other toxins, a title search to make sure there are no liens, and taking pictures to document the farm’s condition, Teets explained.

Finally, there’s an appraisal, and the farm owner gets paid the difference between the agricultural price and the market value. 

“So if you have 100 acres, and it’s $1,000, then we pay you $100,000 to put a piece of paper, an easement, that attaches to your deed and says that you cannot develop this farm; it can only be used for agricultural purposes,” Teets said. “Now, whether that’s a fish farm, a dairy farm, a wheat farm, a cattle farm, agritourism, but it has to be used in the agricultural arena.”

The easement is forever and removing it requires going to court. Ultimately, the program falls under the USDA and involves taking on the federal government, Teets said. 

To qualify, landowners need to own their mineral rights and not have any leases signed with oil and gas companies. Cell towers won’t stop an easement but can’t be built on the property after unless it’s through eminent domain. 

Two acres, called the homestead area, are blocked off for building things such as barns, chicken houses, a home and the like. However, if there’s only one house on the property that’s all that can be built there, Teets said.

“If you have children and grandchildren that you think someday may want to come back to the farm, then I encourage (farmers) to take maybe five acres out somewhere along the perimeter of the farm,” Teets said. “So that they can put it into a lot and sell it to their kids.”

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