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Public access key in county land program

Washington County Board members reaffirmed support Tuesday for a sliding-scale funding approach to land purchases made through the county's Land and Water Legacy Program.

Board members signaled they would approve funding guidelines that would provide more county tax dollars to properties with more public access. State agencies, local governments or conservation groups may also provide matching funds under the proposed guidelines.

Commissioners discussed the issue during a workshop, but took no formal action.

Lands purchased for full public access could be funded up to 100 percent by the county, as could property that meets possible areas of possible conservation focus, such as protecting drinking water or creating natural buffers along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.

"This model gives us enough flexibility" to work with landowners on a case-by-case basis, Washington County Administrator Jim Schug said.

The Land and Water Legacy Program uses borrowed funds to acquire valuable property for conservation. The bonds will be repaid with property tax revenue. County voters approved creation of the program in 2006, limiting it to $20 million.

See the upcoming print edition of the South Washington County Bulletin for more on this story.