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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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7 Pa. Code § 138e.15. Farmland ranking system.

§ 138e.15. Farmland ranking system.

 (a)  System required. The county board shall adopt a farmland ranking system meeting the requirements of this section for use in prioritizing applications for the appraisal of properties meeting the minimum criteria in §  138e.16 (relating to minimum criteria for applications). This farmland ranking system may include additional or substitute criteria as approved by the State Board.

 (b)  Review and approval of system. The county board shall set forth its farmland ranking system in its county program and submit the county program to the State Board for review and approval in accordance with the act.

 (c)  Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) system. The farmland ranking system shall evaluate tracts being considered for appraisal on a 100-point scale, using the two-part LESA system described in this section. The weighted Land Evaluation (LE) score shall be calculated in accordance with subsection (d). The weighted Site Assessment (SA) score shall be calculated in accordance with subsection (e). The total of the weighted LE and weighted SA scores equals the farmland ranking score. The county board shall establish in the county program the weighted values to be given the LE score and the SA score, as well as the weighted values to be given the three general categories—development potential (DP), farmland potential (FP) and clustering potential (CP)—of factors to be considered in calculating the SA score. The weighted values set forth in the county program shall total 100%, and shall be within the following ranges:

MinimumMaximum
WeightedWeighted
ValueValue
Land Evaluation (LE)…40%70%
Site Assessment (SA)  Developmental Potential…10%40%
Site Assessment  Farmland Potential…10%40%
Site Assessment  Clustering Potential…10%40%

   A flow chart summarizing the farmland ranking system is set forth at Appendix A.

 (d)  Land Evaluation (LE).

   (1)  Source of soils data. A farmland ranking system shall designate either or both of the following as the source of the soils data used in LE:

     (i)   The county soil survey, as published by the USDA-NRCS in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State University and the Department.

     (ii)   The Soil and Water Conservation Technical Guide published and updated by the USDA-NRCS.

   (2)  Relative value of soil. The county program shall set forth a relative value for each soil mapping unit in the county. The relative value shall be on a 100-point-scale—with 100 points assigned to the best soils for agricultural production and all other soils assigned relative values of less than 100 points.

   (3)  Calculation of average relative value. The average relative value of the soils on a tract being considered for appraisal shall be calculated by multiplying the relative value of each soil mapping unit within the tract by the total acreage of the soil mapping unit within the tract, adding these products and then dividing that sum by the total acreage of the tract.

   

   Example: A 60-acre tract has 10 acres within soil mapping units with relative values of 95, 20 acres within soil mapping units with relative values of 90 and 30 acres within soil mapping units with relative values of 80. The sum of the relative values is calculated as follows:  10 acres x 95 = 950 acres  20 acres x 90 = 1,800 acres  30 acres x 80 = 2,400 acres  Total      5,150 acres  The 5,150 acre sum is then divided by the total acreage of the tract (60 acres) to determine the average relative value:  5,150 acres divided by 60 acres = 85.83  In this example, the average relative value of the soils on the tract is 85.83.

   (4)  Calculation of weighted LE score. The weighted LE score of a tract being considered for appraisal shall be the product of the average relative value of the soils on the tract multiplied by the weighted value assigned to the LE score under the county program.

   

   

   Example. The average relative value of the soils on the tract described in the example in paragraph (3) is 85.83. The county program assigns a weighted value to the LE score of 60% (.60) of the farmland ranking score. The weighted LE score for this tract would be 51.5, calculated as follows:  85.83 x .60 = 51.5

 (e)  Site Assessment (SA).

   (1)  General categories of factors. The county programs shall require the evaluation of three general categories of factors in determining the SA score, and shall specify the individual factors to be considered under each of these general categories. These categories are as follows:

     (i)   Development Potential (DP) factors. Factors that identify the extent to which development pressures are likely to cause conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses.

     (ii)   Farmland Potential (FP) factors. Factors that measure the potential agricultural productivity and farmland stewardship practiced on a tract.

     (iii)   Clustering Potential (CP) factors. Factors that emphasize the importance of preserving blocks of farmland to support normal farming operations and help to shield the agricultural community from conflicts with incompatible land uses.

   (2)  Scoring scale. The county program shall require that each of the three general categories of factors described in paragraph (1) ranks tracts on a 100-point scale. The total combined maximum score under these categories shall be 300 points.

   (3)  Development Potential (DP) factors.

     (i)   Number. The county program shall specify no less than 3 and no more than 10 factors to be considered in scoring the DP of a tract being evaluated for appraisal. Three of these factors shall be the factors described in subparagraphs (ii)—(iv), unless substitute factors are approved by the State Board in accordance with subparagraph (v).

     (ii)   Required factor: availability of sanitary sewer and public water. The county program shall require that the availability of sanitary sewer and public water to a tract be considered in scoring its DP. A farmland tract is more likely to be surrounded by incompatible land uses or be converted to nonagricultural use if it is in an area which is suitable for onlot sewage disposal or if it is in an area which has access to public sewer and water service or is expected to have access to the service within 20 years. The tract shall receive a relatively higher score than a tract that does not have sanitary sewer and public water.

     (iii)   Required factor: road frontage. The county program shall require that the public road frontage of a tract be considered in scoring DP. Frontage on public roads increases the suitability of a tract for subdivision or development, and is a measure of the capability of a tract to be developed or improved for nonagricultural use. A tract with extensive road frontage shall receive a relatively higher score than a tract with less public road frontage.

     (iv)   Required factor: extent of nonagricultural use in area. The county program shall require that the extent of nonagricultural use adjoining or in the area of a tract be considered in scoring DP. Consideration shall be given to whether adjacent land uses affect normal farming operations and whether surrounding, but not necessarily adjoining, land uses affect the ability of the landowner to conduct normal farming operations on the tract, or whether the impacts are likely to occur within the next 20 years. Urban uses are generally considered incompatible with agricultural uses. A tract with extensive nonagricultural uses in the area shall receive a relatively higher score than a tract that is more distant from the nonagricultural uses.

   

   Example: A county program may require that the percentage of adjacent land in nonagricultural use or the distance to urban centers or growth areas, or both, be considered in scoring DP.

     (v)   Substitute or additional factors. Subparagraphs (ii)—(iv) notwithstanding, a county program may set forth substitute or additional factors to be considered in scoring development potential, if the factors are reviewed and approved by the State Board.

     (vi)   Weight of individual factors. The county board shall establish and set forth in its county program the number of points that may be awarded under any individual factor in scoring DP. The number of points may vary from factor to factor.

   (4)  Farmland Potential (FP) factors.

     (i)   Number. The county program shall specify no less than 4 and no more than 10 factors to be considered in scoring the FP of a tract being evaluated for appraisal. Four of these factors shall be the factors described in subparagraphs (ii)—(v), unless substitute factors are approved by the State Board in accordance with subparagraph (vi).

     (ii)   Required factor: percentage of certain types of land. The county program shall require that the percentage of harvested cropland, pasture and grazing land on a tract be considered in scoring FP. Large amounts of productive farmland—harvested cropland, pasture and grazing land—make a farm more viable. If a large percentage of a tract is not used as productive farmland, the tract should receive a lower farmland potential score.

     (iii)   Required factor: stewardship of land. The county program shall require that the stewardship of the land and the use of conservation practices and best land management practices be considered in scoring the FP of a tract. A score will not be awarded under this factor unless sound soil and water conservation practices are in place with respect to at least 50% of the tract. The implementation of soil erosion control, sedimentation control, nutrient management and other practices demonstrating good stewardship of the tract shall be considered under this factor.

     (iv)   Required factor: size of tract on application. The county program shall require that the size of a tract described in the easement purchase application be considered in scoring the FP of the tract. In general, a farmland tract with higher acreage should be assigned a relatively higher value than a tract having less acreage.

     (v)   Required factor: historic, scenic and environmental qualities. The county program shall require that the designation or listing of a tract by local/State/Federal authorities as an historically or culturally-significant location, or a scenic area or open space be considered in scoring the FP of a tract. Tracts adjoining designated protected areas such as flood plains, wildlife habitat, parks, forests and educational sites shall also be considered under this factor. The county program shall specify whether a tract shall receive a relatively higher or relatively lower score based upon its historic, scenic or environmental qualities.

     (vi)   Substitute or additional factors. Subparagraphs (ii)—(v) notwithstanding, a county program may set forth substitute or additional factors to be considered in scoring FP, if the factors are reviewed and approved by the State Board. The additional factors may include a factor that awards points based upon the landowner’s offer to sell the easement at a reduced price.

     (vii)   Weight of individual factors. The county board shall establish and set forth in its county program the number of points that may be awarded under any individual factor in scoring FP. The number of points may vary from factor to factor.

   (5)  Clustering Potential (CP) factors.

     (i)   Number. The county program shall specify no less than three and no more than ten factors to be considered in scoring the CP of a tract being evaluated for appraisal. Three of these factors shall be the factors described in subparagraphs (ii)—(iv), unless substitute factors are approved by the State Board in accordance with subparagraph (v).

     (ii)   Required factor: consistency with planning map. The county program shall require that the location of a tract with respect to those areas of the county identified as important agricultural areas of the county in the planning map described in §  138e.17 (relating to planning and development map) be considered in scoring the CP of the tract. A tract that is within an identified important agricultural area shall receive a higher score than tracts that are distant from these areas. Tracts located within the designated areas are more viable for agricultural use and are more likely to be compatible with county and local comprehensive plans.

     (iii)   Required factor: proximity to restricted land. The county program shall require that the proximity of a tract to land already under agricultural conservation easement—whether held by a county, the State, jointly by the county and State, a unit of local government, or by a nonprofit land conservation organization—be considered in scoring the CP of the tract. A tract that is close to the restricted land shall receive a higher score than tracts that are more distant from the restricted land. Clustering easement purchases will develop a mass of farmland which supports normal farming operations and reduces conflicts with incompatible land uses.

     (iv)   Required factor: percentage of adjoining land in an agricultural security area. The county program shall require that the percentage of a tract’s boundary that adjoins land in an agricultural security area be considered in scoring the CP of the tract. The higher the percentage, the higher the score shall be. Areas where agriculture has been given protection by the municipality, at the request of the landowners, provides an environment conducive to farming.

     (v)   Substitute or additional factors. Subparagraphs (ii)—(iv) notwithstanding, a county program may set forth substitute or additional factors to be considered in scoring clustering potential, if the factors are reviewed and approved by the State Board. The additional factors may include a factor that awards points for the establishment of new clustering areas.

     (vi)   Weight of individual factors. The county board shall establish and set forth in its county program the number of points that may be awarded under any individual factor in scoring CP. The number of points may vary from factor to factor.

   (6)  Calculation of weighted Site Assessment (SA) score. The SA score of a tract being considered for appraisal shall be calculated as follows: The product of the DP score multiplied by the weighted value for that category is the weighted DP score. The product of the FP score multiplied by the weighted value for that category is the weighted FP score. The product of the CP score multiplied by the weighted value for that category is the weighted CP score. The sum of these three weighted scores is the weighted SA score.

   

   Example: A county program assigns weighted values of 10% to DP, 20% to FP and 30% to CP. The DP, FP and CP scores for a particular tract are 92, 85 and 80, respectively. The weighted DP score equals the DP score (92) multiplied by its weighted value (10%): 9.2. The weighted FP score equals the FP score (85) multiplied by its weighted value (20%): 17. The weighted CP score equals the CP score (80) multiplied by its weighted value (30%): 24. The weighted SA score is the sum of these three weighted scores (9.2 + 17 + 24): 50.2.

 (f)  Calculation of farmland ranking score. The sum of the weighted LE score and the weighted SA score equals the farmland ranking score.

 (g)  Use of farmland ranking score. The farmland ranking score shall determine the order in which tracts are selected by the county board for appraisal. Selection for appraisal shall be made in descending order of farmland ranking score.

Source

   The provisions of this §  138e.15 amended November 24, 1995, effective November 25, 1995, 25 Pa.B. 5253; amended December 26, 1997, effective December 27, 1997, 27 Pa.B. 6782. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (202905) to (202911).

   (Editor’s Note: The preceding section was amended under interim guidelines which will expire December 31, 1997, or earlier if replaced by regulations which have been promulgated, adopted and published as provided by law.)

Cross References

   This section cited in 7 Pa. Code §  138e.11 (relating to general requirements); 7 Pa. Code §  138e.42 (relating to review, certification and approval of a county program); 7 Pa. Code §  138e.62 (relating to evaluation of application); and 7 Pa. Code §  138e.66 (relating to offer of purchase by county board).



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