Loudoun Supervisors Approve County Conservation Easement Program, Consider Exploring Additional Options | New

Landowners in Loudoun County have an additional incentive and potentially more options to preserve their land after action by the Supervisory Board.

On Tuesday, the board of directors voted unanimously to establish a county conservation easement program proposed by Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and to seek additional information to establish a rights transfer program. development (TDR) in Loudoun.

“There are a number of questions we want to have asked and answered to discuss this [TDR] program, ”said supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin). “The key to all of this is a vibrant rural economy, so we need to give them lots of options. “

In 2006, the Virginia General Assembly authorized localities to have procedures, methods, and standards in place to create a preservation order.

This week the concept of creating a market-based land preservation system tool that does not require government funding was provided to the board by Higgins and Buffington.

Investigation into the search for additional land preservation options follows Buffington’s decision to establish a conservation easement program it would cost the county $ 150,000 of its fund balance. This proposal was approved on Tuesday.

“If we are to continue the success of the rural tourism and agricultural economy of Western Loudoun County, as well as our small towns and villages where there is a rural, historic and picturesque character and a high quality of life for residents , then we have to find a way to permanently preserve a sufficient mass of open space in farmland, ”said Buffington.

If approved for the program, landowners seeking to put their land in conservation would be awarded 50 percent of the total costs, not to exceed $ 15,000. An online application will be made available twice a year.

Loudoun County has 47,279 acres under easement out of the county’s 333,439 acres, according to county staff.

Staff recommended funding the program offered by Buffington on an annual basis from the year-end fund balance, as is currently the case with economic development incentives.

The $ 150,000 from the program will allow a minimum of 10 scholarships to be awarded during the first year. County staff will report their findings on the program after the first year for council to determine if additional funding is needed.

Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) said she wanted to see a revolving loan program included in the conservation easement program. She was the only member who voted against Buffington’s movement.

At a rural county summit in November, Higgins told the Times Mirror it’s important to offer landowners programs that help them monetize their land, otherwise they might be inclined to sell it to developers. .

“Whether it’s conservation easements, transferable development rights, or land use valuation, all of these things give us tools that might be right for a guy’s situation, but can – not to someone else’s. So the more tools we have, the better. [chance] we really need to preserve the earth, ”Higgins told The Times-Mirror.

County staff will present their findings on the TDR program to the February 21 business meeting.

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