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Friday, February 15, 2008

Farmers might get tax exemption

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— The few working farms left in the city could get some much needed help if a plan to offer farmers a break on city taxes is approved by the Board of Aldermen.
The city attorney is reviewing a proposal to grant tax relief to working farms, and it will be up for aldermanic approval as early as next month, Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said Thursday.
The plan would give a property tax exemption on certain farm-related buildings on land used exclusively for farming. The farms must have at least 3 working acres that provide a significant source of income.
There are about seven farms that fit that description, said Letty Malone, former chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, and one of the people who brought the proposal to the mayor.
The proposal would take advantage of existing legislation that allows local municipalities to approve the tax break for farms.
“I think it’s another way of the city saying to the farmers ‘we value you, and we want to give you any advantage we can to keep you in business,’” Malone said. “There’s a great concern we’re going to lose a lot of the farms.”
Richetelli said the cost to the city would be minimal, and estimates that it would lose about $10,000 annually in tax revenue. “It won’t cost the city very much at all, but it may make a big difference to a farmer,” Richetelli said.
He added that if a farm were to remain as a viable business, the land is less likely to be sold to housing developers.
“I look at it as an environmentalist as a great way to save open spaces,” Malone said.
Besides environmental benefits, “the general character of the community is enhanced by having the ability to drive around and see farms and open spaces,” she said.



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