(A) A "certified local sponsor" is a municipal corporation, board of county commissioners or township trustees, a soil and water conservation district or land trust that has demonstrated, as proscribed by the director, that the local sponsor would have the managerial, legal and financial expertise to:
(1) Operate a local agricultural easement purchase program and apply for matching grants; and,
(2) Share legal responsibility with the department to hold, monitor, supervise, and enforce the provisions of an agricultural easement.
(B) To be designated a certified local sponsor, an organization must:
(1) Apply to the department on a form provided by the director;
(2) Meet all requirements for participation in the certified local sponsor program as indicated on the application; and,
(3) On approval of the application for certification, the certified local sponsor shall sign a cooperative agreement with the department.
(C) Local sponsors which have been designated as certified local sponsors may accept applications from landowners for agricultural easement matching grants, and select landowners for matching grants using the requirements and procedures in this chapter.
(D) The requirements and procedures for certified local sponsors selecting landowners for matching grants are modified as follows:
(1) Requirements for the application in paragraphs (D), (F)(1), and (F)(2) of rule 901-2-04 of the Administrative Code are exempted for certified local sponsors;
(2) The landowner applicant shall sign the completed application;
(3) Criteria in paragraph (C) of rule 901-2-05 of the Administrative Code may be weighted as determined by the certified local sponsor. Weighting shall be made available to applicant landowners prior to accepting applications for each round of funding;
(4) Applications shall be reviewed and ranked by the certified local sponsor using the criteria in paragraph (C) of rule 901-2-05 of the Administrative Code;
(5) Landowner applicants may provide photos, maps, or other visual aids not to exceed page and size limits set by the certified local sponsor;
(6) For each funding round, the certified local sponsors must abide by any guidelines as adopted by the director; and,
(7) Upon review and ranking of applications, the certified local sponsors shall send the ranked applications in conformance with any then applicable guidelines provided by the director to the farmland preservation advisory board for review and approval as provided in paragraph (B) of rule 901-2-06 of the Administrative Code.
(E) If a points-based appraisal is used for determining valuation, the certified local sponsor shall use the department's points-based appraisal system.