The key activities Foxfield is known for — horse racing and four-milers — can continue under a new agreement reached between the Foxfield Racing Association and the Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority. All 179 acres of Foxfield are now protected by conservation easements. A small chunk of that land was already under an easement, but the vast majority — 167 acres — was the subject of an agreement signed in early November that prevents Foxfield from being subdivided or developed.“With the open space conservation value and the natural resources — even if races weren’t a concern, it would still be a great easement to get,” said ACEA chairman Jay Fennell.By signing a conservation easement, an owner of a piece of property agrees to give up the right to ever develop a piece of land. The easement then counts as a charitable donation in income tax calculations. This is one way Albemarle maintains the views, spaciousness and natural resources of its rural areas.The easement also achieves one of the goals of a lawsuit filed in late 2016 against the Foxfield Racing Association. The suit alleged that the association had attempted to sell the property and that subdividing it would be against the last will and testament of its former owner, Mariann S. de Tejada. The case has been unresolved and out of the news for more than a yearA few days before the easement was recorded in the Albemarle County Circuit Court, both sides of the case agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and pay for their own lawyers’ fees. 

Credit: Neither Foxfield Racing Association President Thomas Dick, plaintiff Harry Burn, or lawyers representing either side returned requests for comment by the time of publication. 

Stickers were passed out at the June 2, 2017 hearing in support of the Foxfield Races. Credit: Credit: Talia Wiener, Charlottesville Tomorrow Credit: Credit: Talia Wiener, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Fennell said that the easement authority was initially concerned about the court case being a complicating factor on the property but that it did not come up when they decided to accept the easement. Fennell also said that Dick was very easy to work with during the process.Foxfield borders Garth Road for more than half a mile, according to the conservation easement. Among those that travel the road are bikers following the TransAmerica Bike Route. The easement document also says that by remaining undeveloped Foxfield contributes to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.A maximum of 17 houses could have been built on the property if it was allowed to be subdivided. With the conservation easement, Foxfield is allowed to keep its two existing houses and build one more.The Albemarle Conservation Easement Authority finalized several other large easements this year, including one on 4,500 acres of property owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in southern Albemarle.“I’m happy to do the work we’re doing. It’s nice that we’ve been able to have a pretty significant conservation impact this year,” Fennell said.

This article was updated at 11:30 am on Friday, Dec. 20 and will continue to be updated with further information.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.