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American Farmland Trust's National Conference
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Governor Ruth Ann Minner, courtesy of the State of DelawareGovernor Ruth Ann Minner

Since taking office in 2001, Governor Ruth Ann Minner has built a legacy of farmland preservation in Delaware. During her first year as governor she unveiled her plan for “Livable Delaware,” a positive, proactive strategy that seeks to curb sprawl and direct growth to areas where the state, county and local governments are most prepared for new development in terms of infrastructure, services and thoughtful planning.

Governor Minner has used Livable Delaware to coordinate state agency planning, resource management and investments in order to support growth where it is appropriate and planned for. Guiding principles of the Livable Delaware initiative include the preservation of farmland and open space and the protection of Delaware residents’ quality of life while slowing sprawl.

Through Minner’s efforts Delaware has established permanent funding of $10 million a year for farmland preservation, changed Realty Transfer Tax formulas to increase annual amounts available for Open Space purchases from $3 million to $9 million, increased funding for greenways, created a stewardship fund to maintain acquired lands, and required municipalities to have completed or updated comprehensive plans showing future growth areas before they can annex. Of the state’s 57 municipalities, 36 now have certified plans and 12 are in the process of preparing, updating or certifying plans. Delaware’s three counties all have certified comprehensive plans.

“Taxpayers pay a price for sprawl because of the state’s huge investment in roads, schools, and other infrastructure,” Governor Minner said. “When growth is haphazard, infrastructure works inefficiently. In short, sprawl is ugly, it is costly, it is hurting Delaware, and it is time for us all to take it on.”

Under the Livable Delaware agenda, Governor Minner has established a Livable Delaware Advisory Council, provided assistance to local governments for updating their Comprehensive Land Use Plans, and overseen a careful review of state laws to improve land use planning and growth management.

One of her most recent initiatives includes “Saving Open Lands, Funding Infrastructure,” which outlines an approach using Transfer of Development Rights in conjunction with Community Development Districts to ensure that the equity of rural lands is maintained for farmers and that open farmland is preserved for the agricultural industry and all Delawareans. State planners and members of the Governor’s staff and cabinet have been talking with farmers, landowners, legislators, municipal and county leaders, and open-space advocates to fine-tune the Transfer of Development Rights proposal. Governor Minner said, “I believe my Livable Delaware agenda for this session is good news for the future of Delaware, our quality of life, and the sustainability of our agricultural industry.”

American Farmland Trust