By Morgan Palmer
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
DURHAM — Emery Farm in Durham is now one step closer to being protected from commercial or industrial development thanks to a new grant from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).
Emery farm, located at 135 Piscataqua Road, was one out of 36 historic, cultural, or land conservation projects throughout the state that received grants from LCHIP. The grant will allow for owners David Hills and his wife, Catherine McLaughlin-Hills, to apply for an easement for the last unprotected 38 acres that will limit the use of the land to agricultural only.
“(My family) has owned the farm since 1660,” Hills said. “I’m the tenth generation. We’re the oldest family-owned farm in America.”
Hills partnered with The Nature Conservancy and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in order to obtain this easement.
“David Hills has quite a bit of land, and he has placed easements on all of his property except these last 38 acres,” Jan McClure, the director of land protection at The Nature Conservancy said. “This is the last piece of his land that he is putting an easement on. He is … giving up the rights to development the land to ensure the land is always available for farming.”
According to McClure, the easement will be held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The society already holds the easements for the rest of the farm.
“The easement allows agriculture forestry and it will prohibit commercial or industrial uses,” Ryan Young, a land protection specialist for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests said. “We will monitor the easement every year to make sure the landowners are abiding by the terms. We’ve been talking with David Hills about conserving this piece for a long time, and …. he wants to ensure it will be used for agriculture and forestry.”
Hills said it is the history of the farm that has made it so important to ensure its protection.
“LCHIP designated Emery Farm as one of the unique properties that they wanted to protect,” he said. “We are happy that LCHIP has …. protected the Emery Farm for future generations of farmers. It is a fact that 400 million acres of land will be changing hands in the next two decades and we are thrilled that the farm will remain in productive perpetuity.”
The LCHIP grant is just the first step to acquiring the easement, McClure said, and another grant must be applied for in order to fund the rest of the easement.
“(The LCHIP grant) has moved us forward quite a bit,” McClure said. “David is making a big contribution, he’s contributing 25 percent of the value of the easement to put the project together. Between his contribution, the town, and the LCHIP grant, we have enough to apply for the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE).”
An application for the ALE would not be approved until 50 percent of the easement funding, which is the appraisal of the land, had been raised, McClure said. The approximate appraisal for the remaining 38 acres is $1.7 million.
“The town was very instrumental and helpful in us getting to the point where we could apply for the ALE,” she said. “They gave us up to $250,000. We hope we won’t need all of that.”
The Nature Conservancy will submit the application for the ALE in January, and expects that it will take 18 to 24 months once the application is accepted.
Other local LCHIP grant recipients include:
*William Hale House in Dover received $15,000.
*Growing Pawtuckaway to Great Bay Greenway II in Epping received $400,00.
*Watson Academy in Epping received $40,000.
*Milton Free Public Library received $14,789.
*Gov. John Langdon House in Portsmouth received $39,000.
*Players Ring Theater in Portsmouth received $25,000.