Credit: Albemarle County

Albemarle County now boasts 9,284 acres of permanently protected land with its recent acquisition of two new easements: Brigish and Moon.  Both enrolled in the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program in October, 2015.

The Brigish property consists of 161.21 acres with 6,200 feet of protected streamside buffer along 2 perennial streams and approximately 4,000 feet of frontage on Route 6, a Virginia Byway and County Scenic Highway. The Moon property is comprised of 131 acres.  It has 3,800 feet of protected buffer along the Hardware River and shares a 2,600 foot boundary with Walnut Creek Park. The ACE program paid $379,500 to put the Brigish and Moon properties into conservation easement, thereby eliminating 24 usable development rights.

Since the program’s inception in 2000, the County has acquired 48 easements totaling 9,284 acres while eliminating 537 development rights on those properties through its ACE program. The program 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 was designed to provide a financially attractive way for landowners of modest means to protect family farms in Albemarle County and their unique open space resources. It represents an opportunity for landowners to voluntarily sell a conservation easement to a public agency to be held in trust for perpetuity. 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.

The ACE 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 Brigish property received 38.09 points and the Moon property received 32.82 points.  They were the two highest ranking applicants on their applicant pool.