The Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR) is the cornerstone of our Rural Land Management Plan. The program was created in 2000 with the goal of preserving 50,000 acres of land for future agricultural use. To date, nearly 30,000 acres have been protected, and our PDR program has been lauded nationally as a model. Paramount to the PDR program’s success is the objectivity of the evaluation criteria and equitable way in which the program has been implemented.
Notwithstanding the success of the program and its importance to our economic development and stability, a subcommittee of the Rural Land Management Board (the Board that oversees the PDR program) has been appointed to review the PDR Ordinance and program and consider possible amendments and changes.
Recognizing the centrality of agriculture to our economic development and stability, the purpose of the PDR program is to “preserve a ‘critical mass of land’ for agricultural uses” in a concentrated manner that “would maximize its benefit to the agriculture industry of Fayette County.” (Rural Land Management Plan (RLMP), pg. V-7.) As the RLMP notes, agriculture is an industry like an other, with the “factory floor” being the land itself.
However, unlike other industries, our “factory floor” is a finite, irreplaceable asset—the phosphorous rich, prime soils that comprise nearly 90% of our Rural Service Area. Thus, unlike other industries, our agricultural industry cannot be relocated—it is inextricably linked to the land.
The architects of the PDR program were a diverse group of stakeholders, including developers and farmers, who took great pains to construct an objective, points-based system upon which to evaluate applicants. The Ordinance provides that farms comprised of the highest percentage of prime soils receive the most points, thereby clearly implementing the program’s policy and aim to protect the highest quality land for future agricultural use.
Unlike many government programs, the PDR program delivers on its promises. The program typically receives $2 million annually from the general fund. This represents less than 1% of the overall city budget. Yet, our Rural Service Area contributes so much to our economy and quality of life.
Few investments realize such a high rate of return.
In addition to local dollars, state and federal matching funds have been used to purchase easements, but not always. While the availability of matching funds has enabled us to purchase more easements and near the goal of 50,000 protected acres faster, the Ordinance does not require matching funds. If use of those funds means that we deviate from the purpose of the program or lose sight of the goal, then they should not be used. And if that means that easements are purchased at a slower rate, so be it.
The PDR program, like land use matters generally, is a local issue that should be based upon local criteria and under local control. Abdicating control over the cornerstone of our Rural Land Management Plan to the state or federal government is irresponsible and reneges on the promise made to our community when the program was created—to preserve the highest quality land for future agricultural use.
Protecting our prime agricultural lands provides economic stability and security for us all. Protecting the land ensures the continued viability and growth of our agricultural economic base and burgeoning tourism industry, and well as provide for future food security and sustainability.
The Fayette Alliance has always been a champion of the PDR program. Much is at stake, and we have respectfully requested that any proposed amendments or changes to the Ordinance or program keep the purpose and goals of the program firmly in mind. Since 2000, the Rural Land Management Board has led the PDR program with integrity, objectivity, and a clear purpose. We applaud the Board members for their leadership and appreciate their service and commitment to protecting our agricultural economy, cultural heritage, and irreplaceable Bluegrass farmland.
Learn more by reading our complete letter to the Rural Land Management Board:
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