Albemarle County announces acquisition of conservation easements program FY13-14 class results

albemarleAlbemarle County’s Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program recently closed on the last two applicants in the FY13-14 class.

ACE is a powerful tool for rural land protection. Any landowner in Albemarle County whose land is worthy of protection according to the County’s Comprehensive Plan is eligible to participate in ACE. An evaluation system has been established to help rank properties in order of their conservation value to the program, with the final determination to be made by the Board of Supervisors.

The FY13 – 14 class added new three acquisitions totaling 953 acres and eliminating 25 development rights. All three of the FY13 – 14 acquisitions are working family farms or forestland and one of them is in the watershed of a drinking water supply reservoir. Since the program’s inception, the County has closed on 44 easements totaling over 8,500 acres while eliminating 484 development rights on those properties. This has translated to the preservation of a significant number of family farms that together have protected over 91,000 linear feet of stream and river frontage with riparian buffers, many of which lie in our drinking supply watersheds.

The ACE program, aimed at preserving open space, natural resources, forestland, and farmland in Albemarle County through the purchase of development rights, was established by the Board of Supervisors in 2000 in response to accelerating development pressures created by the County’s continuing growth and urbanization. Conservation easements allow landowners to retain ownership of their land with specific restrictions in place regarding use and development of the property. Easements provide a lasting benefit to the public through the protection of open space, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, air and water quality, and resources of historical, cultural and ecological significance.

Albemarle County closed on its first class of conservation easement purchases in 2001, acquiring easements on 4 properties, all of which were working family farms and two of which were in the Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District. With those first acquisitions the County permanently protected 502 acres of “prime” farm and forestland and eliminated 88 development rights.

Over $1 million is set aside to acquire additional easements from the next class of applicants as a result of the combination of the FY 14 carryover, the FY15 new appropriation, and a grant from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Farmland Preservation. For more information visit the county website or contact Ches Goodall, the ACE Program Administrator, at 434-296-5832

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