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Redfields residents agree to purchase land to preserve open space
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| Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

The Redfields Homeowners Association is in negotiations with developer Gaylon Beights to buy 58 acres of open space in the neighborhood. If the land purchase is finalized, a legal battle between Beights and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will be averted.

“A court hearing scheduled for Dec. 14 was continued at the request of Redfields Development Corp. to give it time to negotiate with the Redfields Homeowners’ Association,” said Greg Kamptner, the county’s deputy attorney. He added the county has not been involved during the talks.
 
The Board of Supervisors initially approved the rezoning for the neighborhood off Sunset Avenue Extended in January 1990. Since then, 441 homes were built in multiple phases.
 
In 2011, Beights sought a rezoning for the 58-property so he could build 126 additional homes.
 
Many Redfields residents said they had been told the land would be preserved as open space, and they pointed to the land being described that way in county property records.
 
“Most of us who live here feel it’s safe and pleasant, minimal road traffic,” said Stuart Lowson, president of the Redfields Homeowners Association.
 
The Albemarle Planning Commission recommended the rezoning be denied, and the Board of Supervisors followed suit in December 2011.
 
Beights filed suit against the county claiming that the supervisors acted beyond their power in denying the rezoning because the land was zoned for planned residential development.
 
“After the Board of Supervisors’ vote, we had two potential outcomes,” Lowson said. “Either it would be developed and there might be a potential of one to three years where we could use the land and eventually it would have been developed. The only way to stop this from happening and to remove this sword hanging over us was to buy the land ourselves.”
 
Lowson said two-thirds of households in the association voted to approve the purchase.
 
Because the transaction is not complete, Lowson did not want to say how much money the homeowners association will pay for the land but he said it was in the “hundreds of thousands.”
 
“It’s going to be paid through an increase in the homeowners’ association fees,” Lowson said. He said HOA fees will be increased by no more than $15 month on top of the $35 a month paid by Redfields residents today.
 
Lowson said the hope is to turn the land over to the county either through a conservation easement or by donating it as a park.
 
“We want something that will ensure all the efforts of the homeowners’ association does stay in perpetuity so the land never gets developed, and so this remains as 58 acres of woodland and open space,” Lowson said.
 
Kamptner said the homeowners association made a preliminary application with the Albemarle County Public Recreational Facilities Authority this fall to see if they would accept an open space easement on the land.
 
“Based on what the Association presented, the [Public Recreational Facilities Authority] advised that the proposal was generally consistent with the PRFA’s guidelines for open space easements,” Kamptner said. “Of course, no decision will be made by the PRFA until a formal application is made and considered.”
 
Lowson said he hopes the transaction will close within the next month.
 
“This is a solution that helps a lot of people,” Lowson said. “We keep the land from being developed. It helps the developer because he comes away with some reward from the investment made. It potentially benefits the county because with this purchase litigation goes away.”
 
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