Land Acquisition and Planning

Maryland's Rural Legacy Program Definition of Terms

What is a Rural Legacy Area?

A Rural Legacy Area (RLA) is a region designated by the Rural Legacy Board as rich in a multiple of agricultural, natural, forestry or cultural resources.

Local Sponsors are requested to limit the size of proposed RLA's to those lands that are protected or can reasonably be protected. The RLA should be large enough to provide significant protection for multiple resource values, yet small enough to achieve preservation objectives. Generally, RLA's may be relatively larger in jurisdictions with large expanses of existing protected lands, low development pressure, and stronger local land and resource protection programs.

What is a land trust?

A land trust is a private, tax-exempt, non-profit corporation that seeks to preserve land through land acquisition or land donations. They often provide the local leadership, commitment and flexibility essential to local resources protection and growth management efforts. They offer continuity of management and monitoring of valuable natural resources.

What is a "development right"?

Fee simple land ownership provides landowners with a “bundle of rights, each of which may be separated from the rest and transferred to someone else while still retaining ownership of the land. One of these is the right to develop the land. Others include for example, ​mineral rights, water rights (both surface and groundwater) and air rights.

What is a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program?

With a TDR system, landowners retain ownership and use of their land, but sell the rights to develop it in the future. Typically, a local government awards development rights to each parcel of developable land within a community based on a parcel’s acreage or value, and also designates appropriate “sending areas” (areas eligible to sell or donate development rights, i.e. rural conservation districts) and “receiving areas” (areas where development rights can be applied, i.e. urban growth areas). Landowners in sending areas can then sell or donate their development rights to a builder/developer who applies them to a project in a receiving area.

What is a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program?

As with the TDR system, landowners retain ownership and use of their land, but the development rights are sold or donated. Rather than transferred to another property, in a PDR program those development rights are then retired, or extinguished, in perpetuity and cannot be used for development anywhere at any time in the future. The Rural Legacy Program is a PDR program.

​What is meant by “Right-To-Farm”? 

Maryland’s "Right-to-Farm" law asserts that commercial agriculture is an important economic activity and discourages neighbors from filing lawsuits against agricultural operations. Every state has such laws which are intended to protect farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits and discourage lawsuits filed by neighbors who moved in after the agricultural operation was established. They also protect farmers who use generally accepted agricultural and management practices and comply with federal and state laws. Nearly half of the states prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that would impose unreasonable restrictions on agriculture.

Rural Legacy Program Staff Contacts