County program protects nearly 400 acres of Monroe farmland

MONROE — The growing season is looking a lot longer for four farm properties in the Tualco Valley, now that Snohomish County has placed them under long-term protection from development.

The Purchase of Development Rights program will keep the properties in private hands while ensuring that it remains farmland.

Two of the parcels are at Willie Green’s Organic Farm, the others at Cabe Farm and Hollandia Farms.

The properties total nearly 400 acres.

“Our PDR program preserves valuable farmland from development, ensuring the viability of farming for future generations,” County Executive Aaron Reardon said.

The program uses a deed restriction to keep the land in private ownership. The owner can sell it later on, but only as farmland. The restriction is intended to stay in place forever.

The county has targeted the Tualco Valley south of Monroe for its program because it’s one of the county’s most productive agricultural areas.

The county agreed to pay $1.4 million for development rights on the four properties. The money comes from a mix of grant sources, including the county’s Conservation Futures Program, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office.

When the issue came before the County Council recently, Councilman John Koster cast the lone vote against it. The former dairy farmer said he strongly supports preserving agricultural land, but said grants, not Conservation Futures, should be used.

Conservation Futures come from property taxes. They typically go toward county purchases of parkland or natural-resource areas.

“It just bothers me when we’re moving to that source of funding,” Koster said. “I don’t think they’re being used for the purpose that conservation futures were intended.”

Since starting work on the program in 2004, Snohomish County has worked with five farm owners to protect nearly 500 acres in the Tualco Valley.

County leaders previously approved spending about $1 million to include two farm properties in the program.

Easement purchases at Willie Green’s are expected to close by the end of October. The county closed on the Cabe and Hollandia farms easements in September.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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