Green Creek wants to promote farms, stay green

Published 12:41 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green Creek Township residents say they want more opportunities, such as the county&squo;s proposed land transfer tax, to protect existing farms and encourage new ones.

A Polk County Visioning Committee meeting Tuesday in Green Creek Township drew more than 50 residents, the most of any of the county&squo;s visioning meetings so far. Donna Radich moderated the meeting, held at the Green Creek Fire Station.

Siegfred Foster said he thinks the county needs to encourage people to come to Polk County to farm and should enact the &dquo;right to farm.&dquo;

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A couple of residents mentioned that they live near either Meadowbrook golf course or Derbyshire, new subdivisions being developed in the township. One person said he fears residents of those subdivisions will come here for the beauty, but may one day complain about his occasionally unpleasant farming activity.

Maggie Collins said she&squo;d like to see more opportunities to farm as well, and some speakers offered ideas used in other places, such as Sonoma, Calif., and Kent County, N.Y., to protect Polk&squo;s farmland.

Judy Heinrich reviewed the Feb., 2008 article in &dquo;Progressive Farmer&dquo; about Kent County, N.Y., which has maintained its farmland and small town villages despite nearby urban growth. Heinrich said Kent County has development rights funded by a land transfer tax and is gaining farmers instead of losing them.

&dquo;If they can take a stand so can Polk County if we want to,&dquo; Heinrich said.

She encouraged residents to convince county officials to contract for a comprehensive plan and to vote to approve a land transfer tax. Polk commissioners have committed to using the tax revenue for at least the first year for farmland preservation.

One woman said that Polk should encourage smart development and use Sonoma, Calif.,&bsp; as a model because it has retained small farming businesses by focusing on specialized products, such as higher grade natural beef and rare grapes, that command higher prices. She also was one of many who encouraged the county to seek guidance in creating a plan.

Another person cautioned residents that the county needs to implement the ideas now because once new subdivisions fill up, the newcomers will be voting in new commissioners.

Others,&bsp; such as former Polk commissioner Jack Linga-felter, encouraged residents to make their voices heard and said the only way a plan will be implemented is to put pressure on county officials.

The county&squo;s land use plan approved several years ago has been criticized by residents who say commissioners literally put the plan on a shelf and have done nothing to implement residents&squo; wishes. The ideas gathered in the process of creating the land use plan are strikingly similar to those heard so far in the current visioning process.

&dquo;The future of this county is in your hands,&dquo; Lingafelter said. &dquo;If each one of you don&squo;t apply pressure and say we want this county rural with structured development, it won&squo;t happen.&dquo;

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said at Tuesday&squo;s meeting that he has funding in the budget to hire a firm to help create a plan, which could cost about $50,000. The firm&squo;s plan will include recommendations for ways the county can implement residents&squo; opinions. The decision will then be up to commissioners to implement those recommendations, Whitson said.

A visioning committee public meeting was held Thursday night for White Oak Township, and the final visioning meeting was held in Coopers Gap Township on Friday.