Albemarle County is accepting applications now through October 31, 2017 for the Acquisition of Conservation Easements Program (ACE), a powerful tool for rural land protection. Any landowner in Albemarle County whose land is worthy of protection is eligible to participate in ACE. An evaluation system is used to rank the conservation value of properties that apply and to establish an order for making offers to acquire an easement. The Program will pay up to 100% of easement value (depending on a landowners average adjusted gross income) until the funds are used up.
Since the program’s inception in 2000, the County has closed on 48 easements totaling 9,284 protected acres while eliminating 537 development rights on those properties. This has translated to the preservation of a significant number of family farms that together have protected over 108,000 linear feet of stream and river frontage with riparian buffers, many of which lie in our drinking supply watersheds.
ACE has helped to protect many significant family farms over the years by acquiring easements with a lump-sum payment. In many cases, this has helped to reduce debt, buy new equipment, and make improvements to the farms. Last year, the program protected two additional properties including a 161 acre farm off scenic Route 6 and a 131 acre farm adjoining Walnut Creek Park with long frontage on the Hardware River.
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. Although conservation easements restrict how a landowner can subdivide and develop their property, they retain full ownership of the land and can continue farming and timbering it. An easement is taxed at land-use rates. 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.
Nearly $900,000 is currently available to acquire new conservation easements. Interested landowners are encouraged to apply before the October 31 deadline. The application is non-binding and can be withdrawn at any time prior to closing.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.