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Montgomery County council passes urban farm tax credit bill

SILVER SPRING, MD — The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a bill that will provide tax credits to urban farmers.

The Urban Agricultural Tax Credit bill passed 8-0 and will give properties that qualify up to an 80% exemption on property tax. Councilmember Tom Hucker was the bill’s main sponsor and said he hopes it encourages more people to start an urban farm.

"We would like to, you know, create more use of small plots of land for agriculture because there’s a lot of interest in locally sourced foods,” said Hucker. He added that we has inspired to create the bill once he learnt the story of Charles Koiner, 96, in Silver Spring.

"In my opinion, we’ve been overtaxing him for over 40 years,” added Hucker.

Koiner has been operating a farm on his one-acre plot of land for over 40 years, just a few blocks from downtown Silver Spring.

"This is right in the middle of town, and to have this acre of ground is really something,” said Koiner. But because Maryland law dictates that a farm must be at least five acres, Koiner hadn't been eligible, until now, for tax credits. Most recently, he was paying $21,000 in taxes. "I just thank the Lord, I’ve been able to pay them and have the ground where I can work it and raise stuff."

But now Koiner’s property qualifies for the tax emption under this new law. Among the requirements: the property must be between a half-acre and three-acres in size, at least $5,000 in product must be sold annually, and the property must be within a certain distance of a city center.

A study evaluating the effectiveness of the tax credit in promoting urban farming must be presented to the council before January 1, 2020.

For Koiner, he said the bill works out good for him and he plans to keep farming for as long as he can.

"It means at my age, I’ve got something to do. Other than that, if I didn’t have this, I couldn’t do anything, you know what I mean. I wouldn’t have anything to do. So, this keeps me busy,” said Koiner.