The campaign season for three Board of Supervisors races is officially underway, with the first candidates’ forum of the year. Seven candidates for three seats were guests at the annual meeting of the Albemarle County Farm Bureau, held August 14, 2007 at Western Albemarle High School.

President

Joe Jones

joked with the crowd that he would have preferred to have booked a bluegrass band  to close out the annual meeting.

“However, the Board of Directors felt with the number of seats up for election this fall, that part of our responsibility as an organization is to educate our membership,” he said. “Part of that education is getting to know the candidates for the Board of Supervisors.”


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Candidates were asked three questions, each of which stemmed from a set of resolutions adopted by Farm Bureau members during the meeting prior to the forum. Their local government resolutions were as follows:


The forum was moderated Mark Campbell, a field representative of the Virginia Farm Bureau. The format of the event did not include opening or closing statements and the. candidates were not given copies of the three questions in advance.


Question 1

:


“Much discussion within the Board of Supervisors and in public has advocated “farmland preservation.” What measures would you support to encourage and support the business and livelihood of those who continue to farm that land?”

All candidates supported the idea of dedicating county staff time to helping farmers’ market their products.




Kevin Fletcher

, independent candidate for the Scottsville District, said he suggested that Albemarle County farmers be connected with growers in surrounding counties to help share marketing strategies, especially in tapping in to the lucrative market of local restaurants.

Lindsay Dorrier

, incumbent in the Scottsville District, said he wanted to continue “an ongoing dialog” with area farmers. The other independent in the district,

Denny King

, said the County needs to do more to be “farm-friendly” given that 95 percent of the land is rural.


Marcia Joseph

, Democratic candidate for the Rivanna District, told the crowd she thought it was an exciting time for local farms with increasing demand for Community Supported Agriculture and organic produce. As a resident of the rural area, she said preserving farmland was an important priority. “I really would much rather see cattle raised next door than the houses going up next door,” she said.




Ken Boyd

, incumbent Rivanna Supervisor, responded to the question by expressing his philosophy of government – “government that regulates least regulates best.” He pointed out that the Board has reduced the tax rate twice in the past four years he has been a Supervisor. He said the county’s farming liaison staff should help farmers find supplementary sources of income during hard times.




David Wyant

, incumbent White Hall Supervisor, he supports the county’s Acquisition of Conservation Easement programs as well as the land-use taxation program. His opponent,

Ann Mallek

, wants the county to remove obstacles to farm-sales, provide education on high-yield markets, and by linking retiring farmers with aspiring ones to encourage agricultural land to remain so. She echoed Joseph’s comments that local farmers have an opportunity to tap into the local market with renewed attention on food safety.


Question 2:

Control of population growth has been cited as a basis for measures such as the transfer of development rights. Would you be willing to support compensating landowners for limiting further division of their real property without attaching easement restriction on the future use of the land so long as it remain ineligible for subdivision?


Ken Boyd

said he was a “huge advocate of personal property rights” and that he has too many questions about transferable development rights (TDRs) before he could answer for sure. Boyd is skeptical that TDRs would generate enough of a market to be equitable for all residents, especially ifs downzoning of rural areas is part of that package. He said farmers whose families have been working County lands for generations can be trusted not to abuse programs designed to protect their farmland from development.




Joseph

took issue with the notion that TDRs are designed to control population growth, and said that the County’s population will likely continue to grow at a rate of 2 percent. “It’s important to make sure that any easement placed on a piece of property does not hinder you from doing any agricultural use.”


Ann Mallek

, a member of the Acquisition of Conservation Easements committee since 2000, said she needed more information on the question before she could answer. Her opponent

David Wyant

said he would not support attaching easements to rural land if the owners transferred their development rights.




Lindsay Dorrier

related his personal experience with TDRs. “I know first hand about TDRs because my mother owns a 50 acre farm, and 2 years go she decided to get a conservation easement and works with the Virginia Outdoor Foundation to do it. The value of the property really did not diminish that much, but it allowed her children to get a tax credit to apply against our state income tax,” he said. “That has an easement restriction on it.”




Denny King

said did not have enough information to take a position on the question.

Kevin Fletcher

said he was against TDRs if they expanded the county’s growth area, but said he supports the ACE program as well as the Virginia Outdoor Foundation, two programs that support conservation easements.


Question 3:

What is your position on the land-use assessment program? What should be done to ensure compliance with the requirements for designation of land-use property?

All of the candidates expressed support for the current land use taxation program, but some said it was being abused.




Ann Mallek

said farm land in production does not put a burden on the County in terms of requiring services like schools. But she said the program needs to be as “squeaky clean” as possible to prevent mistrust among urban residents of the county.

David Wyant

said that he did not think compliance enforcement was much of an issue.


Denny King

said the County has not done a good job of policing the program. “I believe that there are people out there in our County who are enjoying land use taxation who don’t qualify and have not earned that right,” he said.

Kevin Fletcher

agreed that the tax incentive was misused but said without the program, many people would not be able to stay in the County, but he suggested farmers file annual reports on what they produce.

Lindsay Dorrier

says land use taxation was enacted farmers, but that the program has not worked out as well as envisioned. He also said he did not see that it had been abused.


Marcia Joseph

said it hurts her heart when she hears Albemarle County residents who live in the urban ring describe the land-use taxation program as “farmers not paying their fair share.” She says the County could not survive without its farmers.

Ken Boyd

said he relies on staff to police for abuse, but that he was unaware of widespread problems with the program.


A transcript of this candidate forum will be prepared by Charlottesville Tomorrow and added to this post in the near future

.  Visit our

Election Watch 2007 website

for complete coverage of local elections.

Sean Tubbs

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