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Farm bureau warns of misuse of greenbelt

Article Date: 
12 April, 2013 (All day)

Morgan County Farm Bureau members are warning government officials about many issues, chief among them the abuse of green belt designations within the county.
Land designated greenbelt is assessed at lower property taxes.
“Greenbelt is being abused,” said Randy Sessions, vice president of Morgan County Farm Bureau.  “Our concern is the recreation is hiding behind the greenbelt.”
Greenbelt land that has been set aside for agricultural use is “becoming recreation property,” Sessions said.  “The county is being cheated out of taxes if the ground is not being used as greenbelt.” 
Sessions said that when properties go through planning and zoning procedures, staff should be aware how changing land uses affect the tax designation of the land and alert the assessor.
He said that the county could help eliminate confusion regarding greenbelt designations by defining “recreation.”
“There are some gray areas there.  But greenbelt is for farming or grazing,” he said.  “Hunting I view as recreation.”
Bureau members said that some Morgan ranchers have run into trouble when their cattle wander onto neighboring properties that are used for hunting elk.  
“They want to save the feed for the wildlife,” said Brent Bohman, Morgan County Farm Bureau board member.  “Recreation creates conflict with agriculture.”
“When I am ordered to get out of bed to move my sheep camp because someone is hunting elk there tomorrow, it is an elk ranch thing, not a sheep ranch,” said Shane Pentz, Morgan County Farm Bureau president.  “Elk doesn’t do the greenbelt.”
County council members suggested asking the planning commission to draft a use table detailing recreation and agriculture.
Dyers Woad was second on a list of four issues the bureau recently brought before the Morgan County Council.  The herb associated with the mustard family used in the past for blue dye and medicinal properties is considered a noxious weed.
“We would like to see a stronger weed board and better enforcement,” Sessions said.  “Property owners should take care of it.  Citizens should take care of their own property.”
“We’ve got a weed problem,” Bohman said.  “Weeds are one of those things I as an individual property owner can’t solve by myself.  There are authorities under state law to lien people’s properties if they take care of it.”
Bureau members also called on county leaders to enforce animal control issues such as how many dogs are allowed on one property.
“There are rules and laws that need to be complied with.  That isn’t happening,” Sessions said.  “Morgan County already has (animal control officers) in place.  It’s not going to cost you any more.  Enforce the laws you already have and your revenues will go up.”
Their last item included farmers and ranchers being notified of large-scale races and marathons coming through the county.
“There are races that go through town you are not aware of.  There needs to be some way to know, as someone running a herd of livestock up and down a county road,” Sessions said.  “We are part of economic development too.”
The growing popularity of marathons and races is likewise affecting farmers and ranchers in other areas of the state, said Spencer Gibbons, Utah Farm Bureau northern regional manager for Morgan, Weber and Cache counties.
Gibbons said his family has a dairy on the LOTOJA route in Cache County.  With 5,500 bicyclists on a road where the dairy has constant heavy equipment pulling out, conflicts are bound to happen.
“If I pull out on the road with a swather on a blind corner, with bicyclists coming around the road four-wide at 30 miles an hour, it is a concern,” Gibbons said.  “It is becoming difficult. Morgan is facing the same problem with Ragnar.  It definitely is a big challenge.”