Applications accepted through October 31
Albemarle County is accepting applications through October 31, 2015 for the upcoming round of the Acquisition of Conservation Easements Program (ACE), a voluntary, non-regulatory program established to protect land and working farms in the rural area. Any landowner in the County whose land is worthy of protection after an ACE evaluation is eligible. This evaluation process system scores and ranks properties by 17 different criteria that measure conservation value including: 1) open space resources (such as size of parcel and whether it joins a permanently protected area); 2) threat of conversion to development and; 3) natural, cultural, historical or scenic resources (such as mountaintops, working family farms, important viewsheds, scenic highways and rivers, watersheds, productive soils and historically significant properties). Any property that scores a minimum of 20 points is eligible for consideration, however, properties in the applicant pool with the highest point total have the highest priority. The Program will pay up to 100% of easement value depending on an applicant’s average adjusted gross income over the previous 3 years.
Since the program’s inception in 2000, the County has acquired 44 easements totaling 8,508 acres while eliminating 484 development rights on those properties. This has resulted in the preservation of a significant number of family farms while providing an important source of income to help reduce debt, acquire new equipment, and generally make improvements to the property.
The ACE program was established by the Board of Supervisors in 2000 in response to expanding development pressure from growth and urbanization in the rural area. It provides a financial incentive for landowners of modest means to protect their family farms through the purchase of development rights with a conservation easement. Conservation easements allow landowners to retain ownership of their land and to continue farming it and managing the timber, however, they limit property division, sale of development rights, and size and number of new dwellings. Since easements are permanent and run with the land, they 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.
Over $500,000 is currently available to acquire additional easements. Interested landowners are encouraged to apply to the program. Applications are due by October 31, are non-binding, and can be withdrawn at any time prior to closing. For more information and an enrollment application, interested citizens should visit the county website at www.albemarle.org/ace or contact Ches Goodall, the ACE Program Administrator, at 434-296-5832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.