By Fania Gordon & Daniel Nairn
Monday, April 6, 2009
has recently floated the idea of contributing funding to assist Albemarle County with their
Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE)
program. During a Council budget work session on April 2, 2009, Brown expressed his view that the preservation of rural land in Albemarle County is also in the best interest of City residents, and noted that the County is struggling to maintain current levels of funding in a difficult economy.
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“A part of what makes our community special is the natural area of the County,” said Brown.
The ACE program was established in Albemarle County in 2000 in order to help prevent the loss of rural land to development and is administered by the Albemarle County Department of Community Development. Through the ACE program, landowners can sell a conservation easement to a public agency to be held in trust. The agency will pay the landowner for the value of the easement and the landowner’s property taxes will be reduced due to the diminution in value of their property.
This year, funding for the ACE program has been reduced in response to the economic downturn. This year’s Capital Improvement Program budget had originally set aside $1.7 million for the program, but that allocation was revised downward to $950,000 for FY 2010.
Brown was quick to point out that his suggestion has no relation in his mind to the revenue-sharing agreement between the City and County. He does not see regional initiatives as the intent of those funds.
“We should talk about, either now or in the future, making a contribution to help expand and protect areas in the county permanently from not being developed,” said Brown.
Each of the Councilors responded with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Councilor
simply said he would have to think about it, and Councilor
wanted to learn more about the program. Councilor
was the only member of Council to express outright disapproval. He excused himself for being the “bad guy,” but he said there were not enough revenues to cover the City’s own initiatives.
said he was open to a regional solution, but he had some reservations. He questioned whether reforming land use taxation, as was discussed by County’s Board of Supervisors last year, could make up for the shortage of funding for the ACE program. He also expressed a desire to preserve open space within City boundaries.
“If there is an initiative to work collaboratively to preserve valuable green space, I am absolutely in favor of pursuing it,” Norris said.