Ruth Platner: “Please consider a “Yes” vote for State question number 6”

The following commentary by Ruth Platner was printed in local newspapers and is printed here with permission of the author.

Please consider a “Yes” vote for State question number 6 on the November ballot. Question 6 contains funding for farmland preservation.

Between 1982 and 2007, Rhode Island lost 13,900 acres, or 22 percent, of its agricultural land to development. This is a higher percentage than any other state. We need to work harder on both the state and local level to support agriculture.

Our farms are important to our economy, environment, and community character. Local farms supply farmer’s markets, restaurants, schools and food banks with fresh, delicious, and healthful food. Our tree farms provide us with firewood, beautiful lumber, and Christmas greens. Our farms and forest support wildlife and attract tourists.

In Charlestown we have amended our zoning ordinance to become a “right to farm” community. Farms in Charlestown are required to follow best management practices that protect the land, ground water and neighboring properties, but farms are allowed in all zoning districts.

Charlestown participates in the Farm, Forest and Open Space Program. This program allows a farm to be assessed for taxes at its current use, rather than its value for development. The purpose of the program is to conserve productive agricultural and forestland by reducing the pressure to be sold for development.

My husband and I have a small subsistence farm. In 1999 we donated the development rights of our farm to the State and Nature Conservancy. The satisfaction of knowing our land, which abuts the Great Swamp Management Area, will never be developed and will always be farm or forest is worth far more to us than the lost development potential of the land.

But owners of large farms can’t afford to give their development rights away. Approval of Question 6 will provide State funds for the purchase of agricultural development rights and permanently eliminate the economic pressure on participating farmers to sell properties for development.

In the last 20 years Charlestown has embraced farming, but zoning can change and the Farm, Forest and Open Space Program is now under attack from some local politicians. To ensure that more of our farms will weather the local political storms and are always protected please vote “YES” on Question 6.

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The writer is a candidate for Charlestown Planning Commission in the November election