Wasatch County residents interested in preserving their land will soon be able to apply for part of the $10 million Open Space Bond passed last year.
The Wasatch Open Lands Board, or WOLB, was created to preserve agricultural and open lands in Wasatch County for the public. In November of 2018 Wasatch County residents passed a $10 million open space bond, that money can be leveraged against other funding sources including state and federal funds to purchase development rights off of willing property owners in the county. Representing Heber City on the board is councilmember Heidi Franco. Franco is also the board president, she says they’re now preparing for their first county landowner meeting.
“We’ve been working all year to prepare for this meeting,” Franco explained. “To get the ordinances in place, the by-laws in place, a packet in place. The application packet for the landowners to use, and we also finalized landowner packets at our meeting. We are finalizing our website, our Facebook page.”
The meeting will be Wednesday September 25th at 7:30 pm at the Wasatch County Senior Citizens Center in the Wasatch County Library. Franco says all landowners are invited to the meeting.
“If you’re interested in open space options in your land, how to get a conservation easement, or other options to preserve your land and receive monetary compensation potentially from the open space bond that was passed last year,” Franco said. “This is the meeting you want to come to.”
Criteria considered for Wasatch County Bond monies include agricultural use of the property, preservation of lands for outdoor recreation or education of the public, viewsheds, costs and feasibility of stewardship and maintenance of the property and many others identified in the county code.
“The criteria that’s in our code comes from IRS requirements,” Franco continued. “It comes from other state and federal requirements. It's the best practices that we've received from qualified Land Trusts. We’ve put all of that in the Wasatch County code.”
Those interested can look at the code online, additionally Franco says that the application will be available online. It will also be available at the September 25th meeting. The bond money can be applied to any eligible land in Wasatch County.
“Any landowner, anywhere in the county can apply through the landowner's packet,” Franco explained. “So, it could be city or County. We want any place in the County, from Hideout, down to Independence, down to Wallsburg, come if you're interested.”
Those presenting at the meeting include certified land trust organizations Summit Land Conservancy and Utah Open Lands. Franco says they’re also hopeful to get a representative from the Farm Bureau to talk to farmers about conservation easements.
“They keep their land, but they sell their development rights,” Franco continued. “Then they continue to farm or use it as ranch land, grazing, other open space uses. They keep it that same use that they're doing right now, but they are paid for their development rights. The land is deed restricted through the conservation easement to stay with that type of purpose in perpetuity.”
Recently the Kohler Dairy and Utah Open Lands announced an effort to preserve 100 acres of the dairy farm located on the northeastern end of Midway. The Kohler Dairy could potentially be eligible for funds from both the Midway Open Space Bond and the Wasatch County Bond but Franco says they don’t have any lands pre-targeted.
“The application process is open to anyone that is interested right now,” Franco said. “We all know the areas that we love with our open space views and our beautiful green fields. We're just excited to work with any landowner that's interested in using this option. Selling their development rights and having the conservation easement put on their land.”
You can find more information here.